National CLT Conference 2015 sell-out

National CLT Conference 2015 sell-out reflects strength of community-led housing movement.
The National CLT Network continues to do sterling work in lobbying government on behalf of the sector, securing concessions in key policy areas such as the right to buy and rent policy. A packed National CLT Conference in January, bustling with energetic communities, was followed by an article on the new Housing Bill by journalist Peter Hetherington. Wessex CLTP was slightly mis-quoted (the values given were per plot rather than per 10-plots!) but the point about the impact of the Bill on rural exception sites was well made.

A big drop in funding for rented housing …

Also in January, the HCA announced that, backdated to 25th November (the date of the Comprehensive Spending Review) grant applications would no longer be accepted for affordable rented homes. Several Wessex-supported schemes have been caught by this announcement; schemes that had been worked-up to planning permission stage by CLTs and where HA-partners were ready to make grant applications. Supportive district councils have offered to help with funding of their own and HA-partners are making the most creative use of their resources to enable most schemes to continue, but some will need to be re-designed to include open market homes.

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The graph above shows the scale of the shift in resources from rent to home-ownership. Read more here.

Hope for community-led housing

Anticipating the reported cuts, Wessex has been asking – more in hope than expectation! – for a ring-fenced capital fund for community-led affordable rented housing for the past nine months, initially through Oliver Letwin (who has eight CLTs and a co-housing scheme in his West Dorset constituency), and then through the National CLT Network, the HCA and the Devon Rural Housing Partnership. We were able to point to evidence of the impact of such funding: some £5m of such grant subsidised over 100 homes in 10 CLT communities across Somerset, Devon and Dorset between 2011-15 – all now complete (see photos below and our report on six of these Trusts).

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We were also able to point to evidence of strong demand demand from more CLTs (see map).

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The recent Budget included the following statement: The government will provide £60 million to enable community-led housing developments in rural and coastal communities, including through Community Land Trusts, where the impact of second homes is particularly acute. The South West will receive around £20 million of this funding.

Wessex hasn’t been the only one asking for some sort of ring-fenced fund. We don’t know yet how it might work (or even whether it’s available for rented housing) but it’s great to see some sort of facility for community-led housing.

Support services for CLTs

The Wessex CLT Project was established by Wessex Community Assets and the Carnegie UK Trust in April 2010 as a model of how technical support could be provided locally for emerging CLTs. Six years later, over 100 homes have been completed in 10 communities with a similar-sized programme in the pipeline. Nearly 20 CLTs have been established and some of which have gone on to own other community assets such as shops and post offices. In keeping with our original purpose as an ‘action research’ project – i.e. finding out what works and sharing that knowledge – Wessex commissioned some research last year through Dr Tom Moore.

Though interviews with 30 board members of 6 CLTs, Tom found that technical support had been critical to the success of these projects. Based on our experience, we have therefore designed a funding model for providing local technical support to CLTs wherever they might be in the county, whether through sub-regional services like ours or through individual advisers. The new funding model is designed as a rolling loan fund and would be administered by the National CLT Network.

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Building Resilient Communities

Wessex Community Assets is now a year into the research project on how CLTs and Community Benefit Societies can contribute towards stronger communities. Part of the project is to work in practice with four pilot projects; Community Benefit Societies and CLTs that are embarking on new projects, setting out on the next stage of their life, and reflecting on the experiences of the last few years in their own communities. The pilots are:

  •  Bradworthy CLT is investigating whether to take on a new project such as a community owned woodland or community owned older peoples services/housing.
  • The Red Brick Building is fundraising for extending their usable space
  • Exeter Local Food needs to relocate their local food shop because of the redevelopment of Exeter City Centre
  • Norton sub Hamdon CLT is exploring the viability of a new project – such as renewable energy – whilst reflecting on the experience of taking on their village shop and post office

We’re also keen to find out more about how to best share information, whether groups would like more opportunities to get together, and how groups can support and learn from each other. We’re holding workshops in each county to find out more from those involved in CLTs and community benefit societies. The first one was held on 22 March 2016, the Dorset workshop will be held on Weds 13 April and the Devon workshop will be on Thursday 14 April – venues yet to be booked. There is a grant of £50 available for each participating CLT/CBS to help pay for travel expenses.  We hope that the sessions will be useful for everybody participating as they will offer some tried and tested tools that could be taken away and used in your groups and give the chance to connect some of the different projects involved. Hopefully it will be also a rare opportunity to reflect on some of the wonderful projects that Community Benefit Societies and CLTs have been involved in to date, and those up and coming too. Please contact Alison for more information on alison.ward.cltproject@gmail.com.

Cheriton Bishop CLT and Toller Porcorum CLT

Congratulations to Toller Porcorum CLT on their award by Dorset Volunteer Centre: Volunteer Group of the Year. TPCLT worked with Aster Homes, West Dorset DC and others to develop 6 homes and a PO.

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And congratulations to Cheriton Bishop CLT on their award from Devon Communities Together for Outstanding Community Contribution by a Group. CBCLT is working with Teign Housing. [Photo of Gill Westcott (Sec.of CBCLT) and Lord Best: DCT]

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