District Dispatch - 1 August 2023
We're all aware of the huge costs for people renting or buying a home in our district.
At the moment, the average house price in our district is more than 13 times the average salary, which unfortunately makes it very difficult for local people to remain living where they grew up. It means many people travel away from the district for work or leave the district entirely, which isn't good for building strong, thriving communities.
Helping people to access good quality and affordable housing is a priority for us as a council, and there are various ways in which we are working hard to do this.
One way is by supporting members of the community who want to come up with their own local housing solutions. In July, we were delighted to give further backing to a group of residents in Westbourne who have set up a Community Land Trust (CLT) to help provide affordable housing for people connected to the village. The trust is a not-for-profit organisation set up to benefit their specific community.
There are more than 170 Community Land Trusts across the country, which have already built, or are in the process of completing similar schemes, either by themselves or working in partnership with other housing providers.
The Westbourne Community Land Trust came about four years ago thanks to a group of residents who wanted to tackle the shortage of affordable homes for local people. They are working on a project to deliver 12 new affordable homes at social rent in Mill Road which will include one, two and three-bed homes.
Community-led schemes like this are an important tool to help people access affordable housing. They have many benefits such as creating close-knit neighbourhoods and providing greater local accountability.
The Westbourne Community Land Trust secured planning permission in February this year and the group is hoping to have the scheme completed by next autumn. While Westbourne is the first CLT to build their own homes, a similar scheme in Midhurst was created by buying existing properties and turning them into affordable homes.
Community Land Trusts are set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes. They also manage other assets important to their local community which could be a local pub or shop that is at risk of closure or providing local workspaces or community facilities. The CLT acts as the long- term steward of these assets and in the case of housing, ensuring it remains affordable in perpetuity. A CLT can ensure permanent local ownership, control, and accountability - for example, by deciding how the properties are let; the rent levels; who they are managed by; and, how to ensure they are well maintained.
There are many different ways for communities to set up their own housing project. For example, there is community-owned rented housing; low-cost housing for sale; housing co-operatives; self-build schemes; co-ownership; and housing for older people. One of the first steps is thinking about the local issues and the type of housing need that needs to be met. For instance, you might want to create a specific number of affordable homes for young families or want to bring an empty, disused building back into use for housing, for example, a former pub or farm building.
CLTs can also access a wider range of funding opportunities that aren't available to large developers and give communities control over design and affordability as well as ensuring local traders are employed.
If you think that a Community Land Trust could help your area, then I would strongly urge you to speak to our excellent housing delivery team for technical help and advice. They can talk you through the next steps and sign post you to other organisations that can help.
Cllr David Betts
Cabinet Member for Housing and Revenues and Benefits at Chichester District Council