Affordable housing delivery

One of the many worries arising from the recession is the sustainability of the model for delivering affordable housing. The numbers are pretty clear – taking a negotiated slice of new developments does not work any more. It doesn’t matter if you have a policy saying 40% of new units must be affordable – 40% of zero is zero. And, the higher your percentage the more vunerable you are to looking like a barrier to economic recovery (or being played off against somewhere down the road).

In the last week I have heard “Community Land Trust” mentioned most days by different people. I’m determined to resist twitter, but if I did I bet I could show you a graph of how this idea is really taking off now. Like 6-year-olds playing football, local government can only have one idea at a time and it seems that this is it. Inevitable shortened to “CLT”, it seems that ‘big’ is the new ‘small’.

Show me the money

The role of local authorities in recent times has been fairly passive. Discouraged from building, arms-lengthing their stock, they have been encouraging RSLs to compete for land and (lets be honest) taxing new developments for piecemeal delivery of new affordable homes.

The market is extremely jittery, and even when confidence returns the first green shoots of development are unlikely to coincide with areas of greatest need. There will be even bigger arguments to have over viability. It seems very unlikely that we will ever return to the old model. Instead, the thinking goes, the answer is to capitalise on the strengths of local authorities – their longevity, land holdings and the gold-plated financial risk profile.

We are going to hold another leadership academy in the next few weeks – always a fascinating opportunity to discuss what is inside council leaders and senior politicians minds. You can see the slides from the last event in our ‘community of practice’ here (registration required), the presentation you want is called ‘julie cowans (place team)’ from the library.

A presentation is always slightly tricky if you’re not there to see it in person. In the comments of the rather fine Mathew Taylor blog that followed his presentation at CIH I found an excellent introduction to CLT. It is 142 slides, but you can whip through it in 5 mins – well worth a small chunk of your lunchtime. Some of the language is different, but the idea of replacing a ‘transactional’ (aka ‘retail’) model of housebuilding with a ‘land partnership’ (aka ‘CLT’) may suit some places. It feels like a model that requires a bit of scale to really work, which is going to require some cojones vision and leadership. Quite how this model translates into the UK (and a case study on the few CLTs that already exist) is something that you can expect to see us (and the IDeA / LGA) working on over the next few months.

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