Emerging project to build affordable housing following the Neighbourhood Plan
Community Land Trust
The Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) is a CLT with the aim of creating sustainable community-led neighbourhoods with affordable housing. The ambitious Church Grove scheme of 33 homes offers self-build opportunities for local people.
|Number of homes||33 affordable units at a range of levels|
|Current Stage||Planning Permission 2018|
How they formed
Founding chair, Kareem Dayes drew on his experience of growing up on Walters Way and living in Sanford Co-op, to gather a community of supporters and raise funds to incorporate a Community Benefit Society in 2009. They built membership, giving anyone the opportunity to become a member of RUSS by buying a £1 share which gives them a vote on the decision making board. Individuals can buy more shares but do not receive more votes. RUSS have an active membership of over 800 members, running education and outreach programmes. The level of organisation has also grown significantly, hiring consultants and employing staff, while continuing to be volunteer-run and maintaining open member meetings.
The group became aware of a vacant site, which had previously been used as a special needs primary school, at Church Grove in 2013 and asked the Council to consider a community-led self-build project. The Council eventually sought a non-profit community-led development partner through an OJEU process which prioritised proposals for their affordability and approach to community involvement. RUSS Community Land Trust (CLT) were selected to enter into a development agreement and 250 year lease in 2016. This arrangement gives the council certainty that the scheme is legally bound to delivering these social outcomes, which gave confidence to take less than best consideration for the site thereby allowing homes to be significantly cheaper than others in the area, whilst their affordability will be protected in perpetuity by the Trust.
RUSS received an early stage grant from the GLA to develop their proposals and hire consultants. RUSS worked with Triodos Corporate Finance to set out a viable budget and cash flow forecast. Loan finance from social investors will pay for the construction of the homes and after completion, will be repaid by the residents entering shared equity homes via mortgages they secure. A long-term loan will be required to cover the remainder which will be paid for by the income generated by the properties for rent. Resident assessments are carried out by the Parity Trust, a charity who helps people on low incomes into home ownership. They assess proposed residents’ needs with their ability to raise a deposit and ensure they can sustain mortgage repayments or rent along with bills, service charges and council tax.
Design and Construction
A guiding principle for the organisation is that residents should be involved in the design and construction of the project and create opportunities for project management and building training. After dealing with issues of contamination and flood risk, RUSS received planning permission in 2018 and the project at Church Grove is planned to start on site in 2019. The scheme will include 33 homes which range from one to four bedroom properties as well as a community hall, office and kitchen to accommodate community meetings, performances and childcare. They recently crowdfunded for a self-build community space which will become a sustainable construction demonstration project. Once built, the RUSS School of Community Led Housing will run workshops to pass on their acquired knowledge to others looking to start their own community led housing projects.
Initiated by the local community, 11 new homes will be built on a garage site in Sydenham and existing residents will be involved in the process. The homes will be genuinely affordable and protected in perpetuity.
|Number of homes||11 genuinely affordable homes|
|Stage||Planning submitted 2018|
How they formed
Lewisham Citizens, part of the Citizens UK charity, held an assembly with 400 people before the local elections in 2014 and persuaded the then Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, to work with local people to deliver Community Land Trust homes in the borough. After extensive community site walks and a local membership drive, Lewisham Citizens brought in London CLT to discuss specific potential sites with the Council. They also engaged with residents and neighbours, and gradually built up a Residents Steering Committee to help with the plans.
Having considered a report to Mayor and Cabinet in 2016, the council agreed that a small area to the rear of the Brasted Close estate should be declared surplus to the Council’s requirements and that officers work with London CLT for a period of twelve months to develop a fully affordable housing scheme for the site. Out of the 17 garages on the site, only 4 were let to residents of the estate. The Council wrote to all garage tenants advising them of the proposal and informing them of other garage locations. Given the proximity of the site to secure tenants, the council also carried out a statutory S105 consultation about the potential sale of the site to build new homes. In addition to the statutory consultation, officers also wrote to leaseholders on the estate. There was only one respondent expressed concern which the designs seek to address.
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are a way of providing genuinely and permanently affordable new homes either for rent or low-cost ownership. They can be used to address the growing gap between people who qualify for social housing and people who can afford to buy their own home.
The CLT homes at Brasted Close will be for sale, priced according to local earnings, ensuring that local people are able to live in the local area. ‘Local earnings’ are taken as the average of median incomes using data published by the Office for National Statistics. Based on 2016 figures, the estimated price of a CLT home is around 40-50% of the full market value in the area. Although the scheme is receiving some grant funding from the GLA, these values are primarily achieved because the land value is effectively locked in to the trust in perpetuity through resale price covenants in individual leases, and governance mechanisms to ensure these are not varied.
Lewisham Citizens held open meetings in late summer 2016 to discuss aspirations and fears about the scheme and to set the criteria for selecting architects. Several architects presented to residents at a ‘pick the architect’ event in September 2016. Residents chose Archio as their preferred architects. Archio spoke to residents on site to begin the design process. Approximately 30 residents and 48 students and staff from the neighbouring school attended. The community engagement has allowed Archio to develop a scheme addressing the key concerns raised by residents around pedestrian access, overlooking, height, privacy and parking. The planning application for Brasted Close was submitted in May 2018.
Who will live there
It is anticipated that the homes will be very popular. A clear allocations policy will be developed with the council focused around:
- Those priced out of the housing market but able to afford a London CLT home
- Those require a property more suitable than their current accommodation
- Those with a minimum of five years’ connection to the borough
- Those who belong to and participate in the local community
- Members of London CLT