We hosted our partners from the Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities (SHICC) project. The SHICC project seeks to support the establishment of more successful CLTs in cities across the North-West European region. On this visit, the partners got together to talk strategy, see London based CLT developments and get to know one another's organisation. Our Director, Tom Chance reflects on the trip.
Brits are used to looking enviously across the Channel at rent caps in Paris, the self-build renaissance in the Netherlands and high-quality community buildings in Germany. But when it comes to CLTs we're actually leading the European pack... for now!
Last week we hosted partners on our SHICC project - Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities, also known as 'spreading urban CLTs across North West Europe'. We came together to get to know each other better, do some business and visit some London CLT schemes. Part of the business we hearing updates from the pioneering CLTs in London, Lille, Brussels and Gent.
Brussels CLT has been going for some years now and has incredible support from their city and regional government. In a city where only 7% of homes are social housing, there's a dire need for new approaches. So far they've built 9 homes, have 43 in construction and 77 more in preparation. They're able to sell homes to residents eligible for social housing, setting prices that are affordable given their income. Those prices are then locked in, making them permanently affordable.
Unlike the UK, where our recent report shows the challenges with mortgage lending for the residents, in Belgium, they have a social lender able to give all their residents a mortgage with low-interest rates of approx 2%!
Gent CLT are looking to follow their lead, but - in a tale familiar to many CLTs in the UK - their regional and local government has a different political complexion, so they're working hard to gain support.
In Lille, it is the local council that is taking the lead. They've moved the first 15 residents into homes owned by an 'Organisation de Foncier Solidaire', where purchase prices are capped at prices deemed affordable to their middle-class residents priced out of the market. So they've taken the model of affordability from the American CLTs and applied it to council-led housing in France, and are now exploring how this might work with cohousing.
London CLT is more familiar to our members, and on Friday morning we took a tour of the St Clements site - where they're now in possession of 23 homes - and the Cable Street site. The latter was won through a competitive bidding process set up by the Greater London Authority, ringfencing two sites specifically for CLTs and inviting bids for interested groups across London.
These pilots are inspiring, but they've also been a struggle to get going. When introducing my aims for the project, I said simply that "it shouldn't be this hard". That is my watchword for everything the National CLT Network does.
We don't just aim to help the most capable communities struggle through a swamp. We work to change the policy environment and build the market around you, so it becomes possible for every community in the UK (and, soon, across Europe!) to run a successful Community Land Trust.
That's the part of the SHICC project we're leading on, called Long Term Effects in Euro jargon. We're co-ordinating advocacy efforts between partners, extending the Start-Up Fund across North West Europe, and developing a new tool to help CLTs explore and demonstrate their social impact. In the late spring, we'll be hosting an international conference bringing urban CLTs and partners together from across Europe. We hope our members in the UK will join us! Watch this space...