Community site visit to Citizens House, September 2022. © Yiannis Katsaris
London Community Land Trust (CLT) is a community-led organisation working with local people to create genuinely and permanently affordable homes and community spaces, putting Londoners back in charge of how our neighbourhoods change.
We were the first CLT in the capital to sell homes, starting with our flagship project at St Clements in Tower Hamlets with 23 homes, and now continuing with our first direct development at Citizens House in Lewisham with 11 homes, as well as other housing and research projects across London. Our support for local groups means they can have ownership of CLTs without having to reinvent the technical and practical understanding and relationships necessary to enable their delivery.
We currently have 10 live projects across 6 London boroughs, with 34 homes built to date and a pipeline of 150+ new homes in development.
London CLT's mission is to empower communities across London to deliver permanently affordable housing and play a leading role in the shaping of their own neighbourhoods. Our mission statement reflects these ambitions:
PERMANENTLY AFFORDABLE HOMES
& TRANSFORMING NEIGHBOURHOODS
We work with teams of local people to campaign and bid for land in their boroughs. Homes are designed and owned by local people, who pick the architects, construction companies, apply for planning permission and decide the allocations policy.
Our model is based on genuine community partnership, where local people become the client and have control over all major decisions in the design and management process, in contrast to the traditional developer-led model where community consultation is a tick-box exercise.
London CLT itself is a democratic membership organisation that anyone who lives in London can join. We currently have 3,800+ members. Our model is also an example of community wealth building showing how local economies can be reorganised away from centralised decisions by government and the market, and focus on delivering what local people need.
London CLT was born out of the community organising efforts of Citizens UK – the national home of community organising – in response to the need for genuinely affordable homes in the capital.
GENUINELY & PERMANENTLY AFFORDABLE HOMES
Our novel approach is based on the following principles:
Home prices are based on local median incomes for each borough from Office of National Statistics data.
Residents should not be faced with financial stress related to housing or spend more than a third of their income on housing costs.
Homes are affordable in perpetuity because when residents move out they must resell at rates linked to local earnings.
By linking home prices to what people actually earn, rather than based on what the current market price would be, we ensure that people are no longer priced out of their neighbourhoods and communities can stay together.
Our model offers a way to address the growing gap in the market between those who qualify for social housing and those who can afford to buy on the open market.
CLT homes are about providing people with a home, not just an asset. Residents must live at their CLT home and not own another property. When CLT homeowners move out, they have to sell at a similarly affordable level and not expect to benefit from large increases in property value, giving new local families a chance to buy a home they can afford.
We work to see local people having control over their homes, blocks, neighbourhoods and further afield. This can take the form of a community-led design process, meanwhile use of sites before construction starts, and supporting residents to manage their homes or create shared community spaces. The intention is that any project we develop is part of the neighbourhood it is in, not displacing but integrating.
We work alongside partner organisations, local government, mortgage providers, funders and researchers to promote innovation and culture change in the housing sector and beyond.
Decent, secure and affordable homes are getting harder and harder to come by in London. Local authority waiting lists are in the tens of thousands, the private rented sector is insecure and under-regulated and average house prices are at thirteen times the average income. Many Londoners are being forced to choose between living in poor housing, or leaving their friends, family and community for good.
Three-quarters of Londoners now agree that London needs more affordable homes. There is also a political consensus, with the Mayor of London and most local authorities making affordable housing a priority. However, there is less consensus about what the word ‘affordable’ truly means, or about how to build the homes. There remains a substantial gulf between the powers that be attempting to deliver the homes London needs, and local residents who feel dramatic change is being forced upon them and their neighbours without their say.
Part of a Broader Movement
The ideas of both community land trusts and community wealth building more broadly are on the rise. There are now hundreds of Community Land Trusts across the country, and growing recognition of the importance of homes, buildings and land being in the hands of community organisations that ensure those 'assets' deliver what local people need.
CLTs in particular are also being piloted in some countries in Europe. We are supported by the Interreg Northwest Europe program Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities (SHICC) to both develop more London CLT projects in London, as well as share lessons learnt with European partners to spread the development of CLT's.
For more information about CLTs and how to set one up in London, please contact London's Community-led Housing Hub. If you're outside London and want to find out more please contact the Community Land Trust Network.