What Are Community Land Trusts? Developing Land for Community Benefit
Community Land Trusts are becoming more popular as a way to develop and own property for community benefit. Here’s what a Community Land Trust is, what it does, and how to join or form one.
What Exactly is a Community Land Trust?
A Community Land Trust, often known as a CLT for short, is a not for profit organisation that exists to own and operate land for the benefit of a local community.
Community land trusts are usually set up by people and organisations who live and work in (or have an interest in) a defined local area such as a village, town or suburb. They are membership organisations that are owned by their members and run in a democratic way.
The Community Land Trust model as we know it today was originally developed in the USA. CLTs in the UK have grown quickly in recent years largely due to high housing costs and a shortage of affordable accommodation in many areas. There are now said to be over 550 Community Land Trusts in England and Wales with over 8,000 homes built or planned.
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What do Community Land Trusts do?
Community Land Trusts can do anything that involves owning and operating land for the benefit of a community. Community Land Trusts can own and run community centres, local shops, post offices and even pubs. They can own playgrounds, playing fields, allotments or nature reserves.
The most popular function of a CLT at the moment is to develop and build housing for the benefit of the community. That is some kind of community-led housing. The housing a CLT provides is usually some kind of affordable housing either to rent or to buy at less than local open market prices. The prices or rents may be linked to local wages rather than local open market rents or prices.
Community Land Trusts usually act as trustees or stewards for the land or housing. The idea is to ensure that it remains community-led and affordable on a long-term basis. Properties developed by a CLT are generally subject to what is known as an asset lock so that they do not become part of the commercial property market.
How to Join a Community Land Trust
Anyone can join a CLT if they are committed to the aims of the CLT and if, of course, there is one in their area. Members often become shareholders in the CLT perhaps by buying a share that is sold at a nominal value such as £1.
Members can then vote for a board of trustees to run the CLT at an annual general meeting or AGM and can also propose themselves for election to the board if they wish to. They can also vote for the policies of the CLT, such as where and what type of homes the CLT will build and who they will be for.
Community Land Trusts are often run on a day to day basis by volunteer members. They may also hire members of staff and experts and advisers to help them.
How to Set Up a Community Land Trust
Anyone can form a Community Land Trust. They are usually set up by a group of local people who come together with the aim of providing affordable accommodation in a particular area. Local councils, charities and other existing local organisations and property developers may also be involved with setting up a CLT.
The first step towards forming a Community Land Trust is for interested people to come together and pool their thoughts and ideas. They might then form a steering group, try to recruit more members and find out if there are any organisations that might be interested in supporting them. They could then start to work out what their objectives will be and put together a business plan.
Once the aims of the new CLT are established and it is time to start looking for a project or projects a formal legal body will need to be formed. This might be a Community Interest Company (CIC), a Community Benefit Society or an Industrial and Provident Society or a company limited by guarantee. It is best to take expert advice on the best way of doing this however so that it meets the legal definition of a CLT.
Community Land Trusts have a formal legal definition according to Part 2 of the Housing & Regeneration Act 2008.
Some areas have what are known as local enabling hubs that can help with forming a Community Land Trust. Here’s how to find a local enabling hub.
How Community Land Trusts Work
How are Community Land Trusts financed? Members of a CLT do not need to put any of their own money into the CLT to either buy land or develop houses. Community Land Trusts may receive grants from local authorities and the Government under schemes designed to provide support. They may receive donations from benefactors. They may also fund their activities by selling shares or by using loans or mortgages.
Where do Community Land Trusts find land from? CLTs may buy plots of land to build their houses on or lease them on a long lease. They may be able to buy this at a discount on the basis that it will be used for community-led housing. CLTs may also be gifted land, or sold for a nominal amount, by a local authority, a charity or a benefactor. CLTs may also be gifted land, or sold it for a nominal amount, by a housing developer perhaps as part of their section 106 affordable housing commitments.
How do Community Land Trusts build houses? Community Land Trusts and CLT members do not usually build any houses themselves. They will usually find an architect to help design development and a developer or builder to construct it for them.
In some cases, CLTs may partner with housing associations to build and manage the houses.
What types of housing do Community Land Trusts provide? CLTs can provide many different types of affordable housing depending on what they are set up to do. CLTs can provide homes for social rent, affordable rent and homes for shared ownership, shared equity or intermediate housing. CLTs can provide homes for single people, families, older people or anyone else as set down in their objectives.
Whatever housing is provided by a CLT it must be community-led and for community benefit. So for example, if a property provided by a CLT is sold it must be sold on the same affordable basis that it was originally bought on, at the same discount on the market price and to the same type of qualifying buyer. Any profits that a CLT makes must be used to further its objectives.
More information about how CLTs work and how to set one up can be obtained from:
Community Land Trust Network is the national membership body for Community Land Trusts in England and Wales.
Community-Led Homes is a partnership between the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, Locality, the National Community Land Trust Network and UK Cohousing.