Why Labour needs to get serious about community housing

Red Brick is delighted to publish a guest blog by the St. Ann’s Redevelopment Trust (StART), the community land trust in Haringey, about the work they are doing and the broader case for CLTs.

Across the capital, Labour councils have long been aware of the growing housing crisis that has seen homeownership falling, a massive growth in the numbers of private renters living in poverty, and a lack of social housing for ordinary Londoners.

Everyone knows that major action is needed, yet this is leading to a ‘regeneration predicament’, where because something must be done, doing anything to build new homes is seen as progress.

This attitude, combined with a lack of central government funding for housing associations, and the continued bar on councils borrowing the amounts required for a new generation of council housing, has led many labour councils to rely too heavily on private developers as the only means of driving up housing starts.

But increasing the number of homes built in London is only one part of the solution, as Sadiq Khan recognised when he said we need to build ‘the right kinds of homes’. As the market is so out of control, simply building any number of homes for market sale or rent will not be a housing solution for most people.

And with regeneration projects leading to a net loss of social housing across the city, and a lack of transparency about how levels of affordable housing are decided on new developments, it’s no wonder that residents are angry and suspicious, while councils say they are just trying to build new homes.

The current model isn’t working, and if councils want to deliver the largest amount of affordable homes, which will be accessible to future generations, while being supported by their residents, they need to start focusing on large-scale community housing.

Community land trusts (CLTs) can provide higher levels of genuinely affordable homes because they do not seek a profit and are based on long-term investment; furthermore, the model of creating homes that don’t inflate in value with the open market means they remain affordable for future purchasers and renters.

The vital nature of genuine affordability aside, though, what’s so exciting about community-led housing is the way it ensures locals have a proper stake in any future development, whether they are living on the site or not.

Community-led housing takes in the concerns of people in an area and translates them into projects that meet local needs, on a design basis that suits the area and with the ability to provide a range of other community facilities so that these developments create long-term benefit for the whole neighbourhood.

st anns

Our project, St. Ann’s Redevelopment Trust (StART), seeks to build 800 homes on NHS land in the London Borough of Haringey. Homes will be for sale and rent, with 75% genuinely affordable, controlled by the community and remaining affordable in perpetuity.

Our plans include maintaining and supporting the unique biodiversity that currently exists on the site, as well as ensuring that a health legacy is retained, by ensuring the development complements the adjoining NHS facilities that will be renewed following the sale of the land. We will also be retaining a number of the historic buildings on the site that previously formed part of the old hospital.

Our vison has been developed though public events, on and offline surveys, and interactions with 100s of local residents, meaning we are able to bring forward a locally-supported proposal with much higher density than was proposed when the site got outline planning permission.

We also believe that creating a community asset that will put a dent in Haringey’s housing crisis and make links with its surroundings is a much better use of public land than just selling off the site to the highest private bidder.

Across the country, land belonging to the NHS, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, and of course councils, is being sold off to private developers when it could remain in the community.

A number of CLTs have been developed in recent years, but it’s time for councils and the Labour Party to support them at scale, and recognise the important ways they can contribute to a sustainable housing supply.

London’s communities need a new approach that makes housing about their needs and aspirations, and remains affordable in the long-term.

As we move towards the 2018 local elections, all Labour councils should be thinking about how they can support community housing, and we hope that StART can be part of the change in direction that London so desperately needs.

You can find out more about StART at www.startharingey.co.uk or on Twitter @startharingey

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One Response to Why Labour needs to get serious about community housing

  1. Francesca says:

    Sadiq Khan’s point about building the “right sort of homes” is key. So many new builds are not accessible to the people who need them the most. Maintenance of social housing and rental properties is another ongoing issue that must be regulated. Problems such as roof leaks, poor insulation and pests must be dealt with promptly. Quality, properly maintained and affordable housing is required.

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