Community Land Trusts

One of the great needs today is for houses where young couples can afford the rent, especially in rural areas where their families live in the village. If such houses existed, young people might even be able to start saving to move to another house and eventually to one that they own.

There is a great shortage of such houses for a number of reasons. Having not been able to build Council Houses for many years, Wiltshire Council has recently found a way of building houses for older people so they can down-size. The first few have been built and more are in the pipe-line. They have been well received, having been well designed and built to be energy efficient so much less expensive to live in. However, there is a long way to go to build enough of them.

Young people have gone from the villages to live in the towns where they could find jobs and cheaper accommodation. They have had to leave their families and the places where they grew up. Villages have suffered as a result. Many schools, pubs and shops have been lost.

For young people with initiative, help is at hand in the form of Community Land Trusts. The Government has provided the following definition:

“A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a local community-controlled organisation set up to own and manage land and other assets in perpetuity for the benefit of the community. The assets other than land may be, for example, affordable housing, workspaces, agricultural facilities, commercial outlets or community facilities.”

In Wiltshire, £650,000 has been received from central government. This has allowed Community First and Wiltshire Council to join with the National CLT to form a team that can help with rural need surveys, links to planners and advice on funding. There are grants of up to £10,000 to help communities with setting up a Trust and further grants to help with building. The team can also provide expertise to ensure projects for new build, self build or refurbishment are sound before they are embarked upon.

Community involvement is key. Membership of a Community Land Trust is open to those who live in the parish and costs £1 per member. Parish Councils and members of the community can join forces to set up a CLT and embark on the challenge to find land or an opportunity for re-furbishment. Some fortunate parishes have had landowners who have donated small areas of land adjoining the village because they know that it will be for social rented housing in perpetuity and will be owned by the Community through a trust.

Once the hurdle of finding land or a building to refurbish has been overcome, there are grants to help with building. This can be done with the help of a housing association or by enterprising people building their own house or getting the help of architects and builders to build it. They can ensure that the house is planned as they want it to be and that it is energy efficient and even energy generating. This will make a big difference to the cost of heating or indeed cooling if hot summers continue.

So far five villages in Wiltshire: Wilton, Broad Chalke, Seend, Tisbury and Cricklade have set up Community Land Trusts and more are exploring the possibility. A website shows the Government has been encouraged by the take up so far and is putting in £163m across England up to the year 2020, 2021 through the Community Housing Fund.

Once a house has been built through the Trust, it is owned by the Trust in perpetuity. There is no right to buy. Those renting it can save and once they have saved enough to move on they can leave the house for another young couple seeking a home. More information can be found by Googling Community Land Trusts and the Local website.

Two people searching for something against a cloudy blue sky