The Chair welcomed Steve Watson and Jay Lambe from Middlemarch to the meeting. They were community led homes accredited advisers for Middlemarch, previously Wessex. They had been invited to attend the meeting to share their experiences in East Devon and further afield.
Steve Watson explained that a Community Land Trust (CLT) was:
· A not-for-private-profit organisation set up to benefit a specific community.
· CLTs could own land and other assets which were important to a community – starting with affordable housing.
· CLTs held those assets so they were available and affordable for future generations.
· A CLT was open to membership by anyone in the community supporting its aims.
Middlemarch were currently supporting over 60 projects across the South West. In East Devon there was a pipeline of projects and seven CLTS supported by Middlemarch (two completed). CLTs tended to take about six years from start to completion of the scheme. This was a similar time period to the private sector.
There were two main sources of affordable land:
· Rural exception sites.
· Land in public ownership.
The average land value per dwelling was £7,000. Middlemarch were working with local authorities to identify fragments of land for development rather than whole sites.
CLT’s aspirations were:
· Housing prioritised for local people.
· Social rents.
· Low carbon properties.
· High quality aesthetically.
· Locally supported.
They also hoped to follow the five basic principles of passive house, which relied on the constant circulation of air and required virtually no heating system:
o Ventilation with heat recovery.
o Thermal bridge free design.
o Thermal insulation.
o Passive house windows.
The legal and financial model was that the CLT was the freeholder and the housing authority was the leaseholder. By working with CLTs, housing authority partners could build on their asset base.
· The CLT led the project and owned the freehold
o Location, numbers of homes, design and occupancy criteria
o Selects the housing association partner.
· The housing authority supports the CLT and had a 125-year lease
o Funds, develops and operates the homes, including land price.
· Benefits to the CLT:
o Affordable in perpetuity
o Prevents sales under the Right to Shared Ownership
o Party to s.106 agreement
o Receives ground rent: £4/home/week
o Local people in housing need had priority.
The funding for this would come from Homes England’s Approved Development Programme, East Devon’s Community Housing Fun, section 106 commuted sums and Right to Buy receipts.
Middlemarch’s support for community housing groups included:
· Strategic advice
· Access to fund
· Site identification and land acquisition
· Planning issues
· Development risks
· Project management
· Problem solving
· Risk management.
It was noted that there was scope for CLTs to get involved in brown field sites, developments in town centres and high density housing. CLTs had an exemption from two of three tenants’ Rights to Buy. There were early indications that CLT properties took less management. It was thought that this was due to the properties being occupied by tenants who were local people and already had social networks in the area.
It was suggested that EDDC work with Middlemarch, who may have additional knowledge on available sites, and were able to do things EDDC did not currently have the capacity for. The Service Lead – Place, Asset and Commercialisation advised that there was unlikely be one single solution for growing the Council’s good quality housing stock. There were many different options to be explored. CLTs and Torvista Housing offered two extreme examples. The member working group intended to consult with approximately six housing companies and a report would be brought back to the TaFF for its consideration.
The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment explained that the role of a housing enabler was distinct from the housing landlord role. EDDC for many years had been working with Wessex (Middlemarch) and Devon Community Together. The Council had a service level agreement with Wessex (Middlemarch) and discussions had been underway about finding land within the Council’s ownership. It was planned to have a fresh look at this to identify development opportunities. It was noted that many council housing estates had nice landscaped areas and there was a tension between maintaining this and not concreting/over developing the estates.
On behalf of the Forum the Chair thanked Steve Watson and Jay Lambe for a very interesting and informative presentation.
RESOLVED: that the Forum note the presentation from Middlemarch.