Steve Cook Guest Blog: A Down Under View of CLTs

Tue 16 May 2017

A recent family trip to Melbourne also provided a great opportunity to talk with colleagues in Australia keen on developing Community Housing. Whilst there are some Cooperatives and Co housing schemes the Community Housing Movement is in its infancy and they are looking to the US and UK models for inspiration. 

The legal and planning framework together with the mortgage environment is different but the issues around the housing market have strong echoes of the UK housing market so there is a focus on Equity Land Trusts. 

One Australian commentator recently headlined an article “Fixing the Housing Mess” not a million miles away from our Housing Ministers recent admission,  that the “The Housing Market is Broken” .Sky high house prices out of reach for an increasing number of people, private sector rents rocketing,  a lack of  affordable/social housing and high rise over development. It all feels very familiar so it is not surprising that the principle underlying community owned housing are gaining traction there.

Communities are finding their voice on housing issues with local residents groups in Melbourne reacting against “site filling, light blocking, tree destroying monstrosities” again mirroring the views of community groups in the UK, protesting at over development and desiring to have local long term control over developments which meet local needs and remain affordable in perpetuity.

Some local authorities are listening to their communities and are looking at ways they can stimulate, support and engage in Equity Land Trusts but at a federal level government appears to lack a willingness to introduce affordable housing policies or invest in affordable homes.

Having the opportunity to make a presentation at Community Housing for Victoria  (CHFV) organised by Dr Andrea Sharam of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and then spend time in discussion with the delegates who attended reminded me of just how far the CLT movement in the UK had come in the past 5 years.

The issues our Australian friends are facing are very much those the UK CLTs have faced over the years. A few Land Trusts are close to realising their ambitions to create permanently affordable homes. They have some way to go but they find what UK CLTs have been able to achieve inspirational and whilst Community led Housing is no silver bullet either here or in Australia it has an increasingly important role to play in ensuring communities  don’t just survive but thrive into the future.

Steve Cook

Social and Community Housing Consultant

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