East London Community Land Trust – Regeneration rather than gentrification

Most would agree that London needs more affordable homes, and while we’ve certainly seen an increase in housing development and construction in East London since the 2012 Olympics, particularly in areas such as Stratford, Bow and Canning Town, the notion of affordability falls far short of anything remotely possible for those on average incomes. As it stands, many must make the choice of living in poor or cramped housing or leaving their community altogether.

The East London Community Land Trust (ELCLT) is addressing this by working with teams of local residents to create truly and permanently affordable homes that are owned and run by local people.

What is a Community Land Trust?
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are non-profit organisations that develop and maintain truly affordable homes and other assets, such as pubs and civic buildings, on behalf of a community, putting control of those assets, how they will be built and managed, into the hands of local people.

Houses are priced according to local earnings, which are taken as the average of median incomes using data published by the Office for National Statistics in November each year. When the time comes to sell on, homes are again valued at a price based on local earnings, which means they are sold on at a similarly affordable level every time a new family moves in.

The East London CLT was set up by campaigners from East London Citizens who were angry about how rising house prices in the East End were pushing people out and breaking up families. Two years ago they opened London’s first ever Community Land Trust homes at St Clements, in Bow, on the site of the old psychiatric hospital, with 23 homes sold for a third of local market rates.

St Clements Mile End
The St Clements Development, a Grade II listed building and former workhouse and, later, mental hospital, in Mile End, became London’s first CLT site. Working in partnership with the developer and the GLA, ELCLT members were directly involved in how the buildings and outlying areas would be developed, with a mind towards strengthening and maintaining a sense of community, as well as the functionality and sustainability of the development. ELCLT was able to secure 24 of the flats, which have now been sold at well below market rate to local ELCLT members who fit the eligibility criteria.

Anyone who lives in London can join the CLT but, to be eligible to buy, there are five criteria, weighted according to priority. They are:

•  Connection: a minimum of five years’ connection to the borough

•  Involvement: belonging to and participating in the local community

•  Finance: priced out of the open housing market but able to afford a ELCLT and London CLT home (i.e. able to obtain a mortgage)

•  Housing Need: requiring more suitable (than current) accommodation

•  Support: of the ELCLT and London CLT

ELCLT are now expanding in East London, developing what will hopefully be London’s biggest ever CLT in Shadwell, on Cable Street.

They are also supporting campaigners who want to get CLT homes built on the Olympic Park; and are in discussions with Redbridge Council about CLT homes being built in Ilford.

While it’s true that 24 homes at well below market value are but a drop in the ocean, the fact that this has been achieved at all is a huge step forward. There is now a meaningful dialogue between Community Land Trusts and those who set policy for housing development, and that’s a good thing.

Images courtesy of ELCLT