We're lobbying the Government for an exemption for CLTs and cohousing communities from the proposed ban on leasehold houses and ground rents, and for an exemption from leasehold enfranchisement.
Many Community Led Housing groups use leasehold to keep homes affordable in perpetuity, and to finance and manage shared facilities. They also use ground rents to collect income for the use of their land and facilities. The Government has recognised our argument that they should be exempt from any ban.
The ability of leaseholders to "enfranchise" - that is, take full ownership - can undermine the CLT's purpose. The Law Commission has adopted our long-held position that CLTs should be exempt from enfranchisement.
Background on the Government's proposals
In July 2017, the Department for Communities and Local Government launched a consultation on proposed reforms to the leasehold market in England, which included a ban on the sale of new-build leasehold homes and limiting ground rents to 'peppercorn' rates.
We have submitted consultation responses and met with officials. Many CLTs also submitted responses, which have been a huge help.
Impact on CLTs
These reforms could have a damaging impact on CLTs across the country.
Leasehold enables CLTs to act as long-term stewards of housing, preserving its affordability for future generations. A third of all CLT housing completed to date has been completed under leasehold, and restricting the sale of new-build leasehold housing would impede the delivery of the 4,500 new affordable homes currently in the CLT pipeline.
Ground rents are used in a number of ways, often to cover their core running costs which can't be captured in a service charge. Some CLTs lease their land to a housing association and collect ground rents which provide their only income.
We set these issues out in our consultation response, submitted on 19 September 2017. This is available to download at the bottom of this page.
The current position for CLTs
On 21 December 2017 the Government published its response to the consultation. It recognised that exemptions will be required from the ban and is open to considering those in 'justifiable' cases - the response details CLTs explicitly when refering to such possible cases.
When Homes England launched the prospectus for the Community Housing Fund, the Government also announced that it would implement the leasehold reforms by banning public funding for leasehold houses. But officials assured the National CLT Network that bids for the Community Housing Fund would almost certainly be exempt, being "justified" uses.
In its second consultation stage, the Government sought views on its proposals to wholly exempt CLTs and other forms of community led housing from the ban on leasehold houses. Our response strongly welcomed this move. It also sought views on alternatives to ground rents, and so our response set out the reasons why ground rents are still preferable for many CLTs.
One flaw of leasehold is that the home owners have the option of "enfranchising". If you own a leasehold house you can buy the freehold of your property, and leaseholders in flats can collectively buy their freehold. This is a major loophole for CLTs, and means they cannot be certain that they can hold onto their land and homes in perpetuity.
The National CLT Network has long lobbied for CLTs to be exempt. For example, when the Localism Act 2011 was progressing through Parliament, we unsuccessfully pressed for this to be introduced alongside an exemption for Community Right to Build Orders.
The Law Commission launched a consultation on leasehold enfranchisement in 2018, in which they proposed to introduce such an exemption for CLTs. We have responded welcoming this proposal. Our response can be found below.
The Law Commission also consulted on reforms to commonhold in 2019. Commonhold is an alternative to leasehold, where there is no third party freeholder. Part of their consultation dealt with CLTs, and with shared ownership, to make them compatible with commonhold.
We would welcome reforms to commonhold to make it more compatible with CLTs. We are also sympathetic to the idea that it should become the default tenure, rather than leasehold. However, in our consultation response we set out a number of problems not addressed by the Law Commission:
- the different objects of a Commonhold Association (to manage the shared building fabric and surrounds they live in) and a CLT (to hold assets for the benefit of the wider local community).
- the difference between the membership of a Commonhold Association (just the owners of the homes) and a CLT (including the wider local community, with one member, one vote).
- the need for CLTs to be able to retain ownership of part of the homes, or to restrict their resale prices, to keep them affordable in perpetuity.
- the diverse approaches CLTs have taken to affordability, which go beyond shared ownership, and so would require that CLTs can use any approach to leasehold within commonhold.
You can read our full response below.