This week's budget was a bit of a sideshow for Community Land Trusts, but there's a hidden gem that might help CLTs buy public land at affordable prices.
Currently councils can sell for up to £2m less than the market value without seeking written consent from the Secretary of State. If the land isn't already 'held for planning purposes' then the disposal must improve the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of their community. Several CLTs have benefited from this, enabling them to deliver genuinely affordable housing on public land. But many councils are reluctant to use the power, and the £2m discount isn't enough for larger projects.
They are now consulting on whether this threshold should be increased to £5m or £10m, or even higher, and whether the wellbeing requirement should apply to all disposals - those with, and without, planning purposes.
We'll be responding to encourage more flexibility and clearer guidance for local authorities. If you're keen, you can read the consultation and make your own response here.
There are a few other points that might interest CLTs
- The Budget announced £8.5 million to help up to 500 Neighbourhood Forums allocate or permission land for homes sold at a discount. Any CLTs working with Neighbourhood Forums could explore how this could help you to bring forward affordable land. We've asked officials at the Ministry about this, and will share further details when they are known.
- The same consultation seeks views on changes to permitted development rights that will make it easier to extend buildings by up to two stories (announced many times over in recent years), and to convert empty shops into homes. This might help CLTs, but could also be abused by developers that build more substandard homes that undermine our high streets.
- Oliver Letwin's review of build out rates was published. One of its big suggestions is that councils could set up companies or master planners for large sites, to break them up and bring a diversity of builders to the sites - self builders, small builders, housing associations, etc. Included in there is the idea (paragraph 4.18) that councils could require the establishment of a CLT to manage some or all of the affordable housing.
News on the Community Housing Fund
Meanwhile, we've had encouraging news about the CHF.
There are now over 140 open cases on the Homes England system, with 35 submitted bids and 9 approved (subject to due diligence).
Our movement is well on the way to getting enough bids in to meet the target for the number of homes. Of course few will get built in the short timescale, but the pipeline gives us a strong case for the CHF to be extended past 2020.
We understand that your letters have put this on the Housing Minister's radar, and he is sympathetic.
So if you've not yet written to your MP about this, get on the case! Be sure to also let us know that you've done it. We've been persuading others to support our call, so the likes of Action for Communities in Rural England, Create Streets and a group of major funders are all making our case with Government too.
If you have any problems with your bid, please get in touch with us. We may be able to help, and can also convey any issues back the Homes England and the Ministry. Tom sits on a Steering Group set up by the Ministry to monitor its delivery.
One final hurrah - we seem to have won the Government round to completely exempting all community led housing from the ban on leasehold houses, and they are also open to exempting us from the ban on ground rents above peppercorn levels.
Keen beans can respond to their latest round of consultation supporting our position.