For many years plucky volunteers in Frome have been struggling to get hold of land as a CLT and build homes – initially for a co-housing project and more recently, with the setting up of Frome Area CLT, to create genuinely affordable housing for any local people who are in serious housing need. As any of these visionary (aka mad) folk will testify, it’s an uphill battle. Much of the land in or around Frome on which new homes could conceivably and legally be built is already in the grasp or in the sights of private commercial developers. Their primary interest, and that of most landowners, is to maximise profit. How can a bunch of volunteers hope to get a look-in?
In this blog I want to highlight the key reasons why a CLT in Frome is a great idea, and why we will get many quality homes built for social rent – even if it takes a long time.
1. Because the homes are needed. With rapidly rising house prices and rents, many people with families or other connections in Frome have to move away or pay a massive chunk of their incomes on housing costs. Everyone know there is a need for much more new social housing, but many developers are adept at manipulating planning regulations to minimise the amount they build. Only 22% of recent housing developments in Frome have been for ‘affordable’ homes, and most of that was for shared ownership rather than social rent.
2. Because CLTs can access grant funding and other finance that is not available to commercial developers. For example FACLT attracted a substantial revenue grant from the government’s Community Housing Fund to pay for feasibility work and a planning application. Other CLTs such as Brighton and Hove have raised funds by issuing community shares or taking out long-term low-interest loans from ethical lenders.
3. Because CLTs have valuable local knowledge drawn from the communities in which they are based. Their directors and members may not have housing qualifications (though many often do), but their community roots give them a different kind of expertise – not to mention persistence and tenacity.
4. Because CLT homes are quality homes. CLTs’ community perspective on design and planning ensures that the final developments are appropriate for, and aligned with, the places and communities in which they are built.
5. Because CLTs can consult and engage in depth with those affected by proposed developments, ensuring as far as possible that the built housing blends with, rather than disrupts, existing communities.
6. Because CLTs are community advocates for new development. Most Frome residents would agree that new affordable homes are needed – so long as they’re not built in the immediate vicinity! CLTs must balance the needs of people desperate for an affordable home and the sensitivities of existing residents, and can do this better than a commercial developer without local roots.
7. Because CLT homes will remain affordable long-term. Where the CLT is freeholder, their social housing is exempt from being sold off after a few years, for example under the right to shared ownership.
8. Because CLT homes will be prioritised for local people. FACLT will establish a local lettings agreement, whereby priority is given to applicants with a local connection. And the result of this
approach is that the new tenants are more likely to contribute to and benefit from the communities in which they make their homes.
9. Because CLTS can help new tenants settle in and integrate with existing communities. Experience to date suggests that CLT homes require less management time than typical affordable housing developments. And residents will be welcome to join FACLT as members.
10. Because CLTs, besides providing affordable housing, can have a much wider impact – for example, developing facilities and services such as workspaces, community rooms, or advice and support. Some CLTs also take on projects to meet the needs and aspirations of particular groups, for example for co-housing or land for growing. And because they are rooted in their local communities, CLTs are able to lever in other community services and agencies.
Getting a CLT off the ground may not be easy, but these are 10 key reasons why it’s worth the effort. And Frome, with its independent, can-do spirit, is just the sort of place where a CLT can really thrive. Let’s make it happen!
Chair of the Board of FACLT