About CLTs

Community land trusts (CLTs) are set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets important to that community, like community enterprises, food growing or workspaces. CLTs act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area, not just for now but for every future occupier.

Why CLTs?

People set up and join CLTs for all sorts of different reasons.  

It might be that there is a lack of affordable homes for young people or families in the village or neighbourhood, where local people are having to move out of the place they call home, and communities want to do something about it. 

Or it might be that the area has suffered years of decline and disinvestment, leaving empty properties and blight, and the community want to bring homes back into use and turn their neighbourhood around. 

Or it might be that the community is doing a Neighbourhood Plan and they want to take charge about how that Plan is then delivered. 

In all these cases, the community wants to make their area a better place to live, and they want more control over how that happens.

‘We don’t want to sit back and accept things being done to us. We say stop, say no, and change the situation for the better.’ 
Member of the Homebaked CLT steering group

‘With less money in the government coffers, the CLT approach provides a way of communities delivering their own services, housing, pubs, community enterprises. I really think it’s the way of the future.’
David Graham, Chair, Lyvennet Community Trust.

The Community Land Trust movement in numbers:

  • There are 263 legally incorporated Community Land Trusts in England and Wales, and including new groups forming the number is over 300
  • 935 CLT homes have been built to date
  • More than 16,000 community led homes in the pipeline
  • Over 17,000 people are members of CLTs

Community led housing

Community land trusts are one form of community led housing, other types include cohousing, development trusts and housing co-operatives. Projects that are genuinely community-led all share common principles:

1. The community is integrally involved throughout the process in key decisions like what is provided, where, and for who. They don’t necessarily have to initiate the conversation, or build homes themselves.

2. There is a presumption that the community group will take a long term formal role in the ownership, stewardship or management of the homes.

3. The benefits of the scheme to the local area and/or specified community group are clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity.

Developing non-housing assets

‘There is huge opportunity with the CLT sector. There could be thousands of CLTs because the model doesn’t just have to apply to housing, it can apply to any form of business or development.’ 
Dr Bevis Watts, Triodos Bank

Community Energy Generation

Lots of community groups are considering how they can make their communities more sustainable by generating renewable energy.  This not only satisfies the appetite in many communities for caring for the environment, but it also provides an opportunity for a CLT to generate income.

The technologies most suitable to a particular location will depend on a number of site specific factors, including the size of the development and its heating and electricity requirements, the natural resources available to it within the land boundary and whether gas is available for heating or not.

The advantage of a community owned renewable energy system is that larger, shared systems tend to be more efficient and better value for money than smaller, individual ones and by sharing the costs of the project, potentially large sums of money can be raised to fund the capital costs, without necessarily needing a bank loan. These are generally recouped over time through schemes such as the Feed in Tariff (FIT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which pays generators to produce renewable energy.

For more information on community energy projects, including case studies, please see the CLT Handbook in the Members' Area.

Food and Farming

When community members talk about the things they would like to see in their community, very often land for food growing is mentioned.  

Some CLTs have made land available near to the homes built for allotments, and some groups have larger ambitions for community owned farms. An example of this is Fordhall Farm, a family run farm in Shropshire. For more information visit Fordhall Farm website www.fordhallfarm.com. Another is Lands End Peninsula CLT. 

For more information on CLTs and food and farming projects please see the CLT Handbook in the members area.

CLTs can also set up community shops, take over the local pub, develop workspaces or other community assets or enterprises. For a list of organisations that can help with developing other assets or enterprises see the link below.  

Defined in law

CLTs are not a legal form in themselves (like a Company). However, CLTs are defined in law so there are certain things that a CLT must be and do:

  • A CLT must be set up to benefit a defined community;
  • A CLT must be not-for-private-profit.  This means that they can, and should, make a surplus as a community business, but that surplus must be used to benefit the community;
  • Local people living and working in the community must have the opportunity to join the CLT as members;
  • Those members control the CLT (usually through a board being elected from the membership).

CLTs have to take on a legal form that works for them. If you would like more information about the different legal formats or the discounted incorporation services that the National CLT Network offers please get in touch.