1. What is a Community Land Trust?

A CLT is a non-profit, community-based organisation run by volunteers to develop housing, workspaces or other assets that may be required to address a need in their local area. The key criteria of a CLT are defined by statute in Section 79 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 which states that:

(i) A CLT must be established as a not-for-profit organisation with a membership that is open to all who live and work in a community. The members must also own and control the organisation;

(ii) A CLT must be established for the express purpose of furthering the social, economic and environmental interests of a local community;

(iii) The land and property assets of a CLT must be used to provide a benefit to a local community and must be protected in the long-term by a legal asset-lock.

2. Why do people set up a CLT?

There are a wide variety of reasons. Often the stimulus is a desire to create affordable homes that are available to local people who cannot afford open market housing or as a response to an opportunity to acquire a local public asset. Sometimes a CLT is formed as a logical next step for a community that wants to take control of local development, perhaps having been involved in local planning negotiations of neighbourhood planning.

However, once established a CLT and having successfully delivered the first project, the members of a CLT often feel empowered to take on whatever the next challenge might be that faces their community, perhaps purchasing the local pub when it is about to close, or setting up a community shop. Why not take a look at one of the videos on the 'See it and believe it' page and hear from people that have already done it.

3. How do you define your local community?

It is up to the founding members of the CLT to determine what community the trust will seek to serve. Usually it relates to people that live and work, or want to live and work within a defined geographical area. In a rural area it might be a number of local parishes but in an urban location it might be harder to draw precise boundaries.

4. How does a CLT create housing affordability?

To create housing affordability a CLT needs to receive initial subsidy in one form or another; be it free land, financial grants from government, charities or benefactors or financial cross-subsidy (value) created by the development of open market housing for sale or rent. Once properties have been built, the land on which they are built is protected from fluctuations in land market valuations by a legal ‘asset lock’ that is a fundamental part of all CLT structures. By separating the value of the building from the land that it stands on, occupiers of CLT properties can pay rent for their property at a level that is permanently affordable (usually no more than one third of their income).

5. Do CLTs just offer homes for rent?

No. CLTs usually have wider ambitions than to just provide affordable homes for rent. They set to address local housing needs, whatever that need may be. It might be a family is seeking to buy a share in their home, or an elderly person seeking to downsize to more appropriate accommodation, freeing up a larger family home in the process. There are several models of part-ownership in use for CLT schemes.

6. What about more innovative housing?

CLTs are also providing opportunities for self-builders, mutual homes ownership and co-housing schemes. The latter are very prevalent in continental Europe and there is growing interest in their development in the UK as an alternative to traditional mortgage based options. Land owned by a CLT is the perfect place to try out some of these new ideas.

7. How is the land protected from being transferred into state or private ownership in the future?

CLTs hold their assets in perpetuity but, as Woody Allen once said, ‘Perpetuity is a long time, especially when you get near to the end’, so CLTs do need to have the flexibility to respond to future circumstance, perhaps by selling a home if there is no longer a need for it. However, the CLTs legal ‘asset lock’ dictates that assets can only be sold or developed in a manner which benefits the local community. So if a home is sold the cash realised is protected by the asset lock so that it can be re-invested into something else that the trust’s members think will benefit the local community.

8. How are CLTs run?

CLTs are locally driven, controlled and democratically accountable. They have a membership that is open to all who live or work in the defined community, including occupiers of the properties that the Trust owns. The members elect a volunteer board to run the trust on their behalf on a day to day basis. Usually, the board comprises a balanced mix of supportive local residents, tenants and employers; people from the wider area with useful skills to offer; and additional stakeholders who seek to preserve the integrity of the trust (perhaps local authority representatives, or those who endow land or property to the trust).

9. What if we don’t have enough people with the right skills?

For most CLT volunteers time is limited and CLTs can be complex organizations to run, particularly when they start to develop and manage property. That is why we have been working hard to develop the infrastructure that is needed to nurture and support CLTs as they start out, and to help develop the capacity of local trusts to manage their own affairs independently.

A National CLT Network exists to provide online guidance, signposting and learning opportunities at regional and national seminars and workshops. This network has also recognised CLT East as the regional provider of dedicated support and technical advice for local groups setting up a CLT in the East of England.

10. How does a CLT get hold of land?

CLTs get land in a number of ways. They can:

Acquire public or privately owned land at below development market value;

Purchase a rural exception site at a little more than agricultural value;

Acquire a site using grant funding, community share issues;

Already own a site that is permitted for development or work with other organisations (e.g. local charities, trusts) that have land.

In practice, we find that access to land is rarely the problem that it might be perceived to be at the outset. Once landowners understand the principles of community asset ownership that are embodied in a CLT, they are often keen to work with a CLT to support what they see as a very good cause.

11. Once it owns the land, how does a CLT fund construction of its properties?

CLTs are financed from an eclectic mix of funding streams and the final balance of funding will depend on local circumstances and what the objectives of the trust are. From the outset CLT East can help you to identify the likely sources of funding but they are likely to come from any number of the following sources:

Pre-development funding may be available from The National CLT Fund, innovative local authorities such as East Cambridgeshire DC, Parish Councils or donations from local supporters or pioneer investors within your local community;

The CLT Fund and/or local authorities may also be able to help to provide loan finance to develop the buildings. Alternatives might include ethical lenders such as Triodos Bank, Charity Bank or the local community via share issues or other fundraising initiatives. The Homes & Communities Agency has grants that are available to CLTs that are able to meet their funding criteria.

12. We are interested in providing a housing scheme for local people but we don’t want to be involved in the complexity of day to day management.

That’s fine, every local group differs in what it is seeking to achieve. Some of the most successful CLTs have benefited from partnering with housing associations to develop and/or manage their homes. In our region, Swaffham Prior CLT and Lavenham CLT are seeking to do just that. There are a number of different arrangements that can be used and we can help to advise on who might be a good local partner and how best to structure the relationship.

13. How can I find out more about CLTs?

Take a look at further website pages on our site or visit the CLT Network website. It's a great source of detailed information about CLTs.

Or if you are in the East of England (Beds, Cambs, Essex, Herts, Norfolk and Suffolk,) and want to talk to us about what local support might be available then contact us to see how we can help.

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