Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities (SHICC) is an Interreg North-West Europe-funded project focusing on making the case for and disseminating the Community Land Trust (CLT) model in European cities. Over the three-year project (Sept 2017 – Sept 2020) it will invest in four existing CLTs in Brussels, Ghent, Lille and London to ‘prove the concept’, create a supportive local, regional and national policy, funding and regulatory environment for CLTs and build a movement across the region.
Affordable housing has become a widespread challenge faced by cities worldwide. Many households in Europe find themselves unable to buy or rent a home because of rising prices, in part due to the speculative buying of land and the financialisation of the housing market. North-west Europe is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, and as it continues to penetrate further into the fabric of our cities, their social and economic sustainability is being seriously threatened. More than 26 million people across the European Union are living in overcrowded and inadequate properties.
What is a Community Land Trust?
CLTs are non-profit, democratic, community-led organisations. They develop and manage homes that are affordable to low and median income households, as well as other assets that contribute to thriving local communities. They act as long-term stewards of these assets, ensuring they remain permanently affordable. This is achieved through mechanisms that ensure that any additional value generated is retained within the CLT. They are financed through a mixture of public and private investment. Public authorities lease or sell the land at discounted prices. The land is then developed by CLTs or ethical developers on behalf of CLTs. The housing produced is sold or rented to low ad middle-income households at a price between 30% and 50% of market price. CLTs are usually financed by grants for the startup phase. They then require citizen finance or lending to undertake predevelopment. Development is funded through ethical banks or public bodies whose grants are crucial to decreasing the price of homes. as for operational costs, CLTs receive grants or generate revenue from ground leases.
CLTs have allowedhouseholds with low income to remain in areas where houisng prices have increased substantially. Households that have a history of living in inadequate housing have been able to access quality accommodation. In additon, CLTs typically seek to impact their communities by generating a greater feeling of ownership and by developing facilities that benefit the entire neighbourhood. In concrete terms, London CLT has delivered its first homes with prices linked to the median income of the area; In Brussels, homes have been inhabited since 2015 an new projects are about to be completed.In France, the first developments carry a price tag of 25% to 40% of market price.
The fiurst challenge had been overcoming legal, financial and political barriers to the adoption of this new model. Political support is often instrumental to overcoming these barriers but is not necessarily at hand and can change overtime. Another challenge for CLTs is access to land. CLTs typically develop in urban areas with significant pressure on existing land and rapidly increasing prices. The low incomes of the members of CLTs prevents them from purchasing land on the private market without cheap long-term financing. Financing remains an issue for many CLT projects. Creating social rent housing involves investing substantial amounts of money in the very long term, conditions that unfortunately do not exist in current financing solutions.