Government reforms ‘could threaten community land trusts’

Architects working on community land trusts have warned the government that their leasehold reforms could stifle the delivery of affordable housing.

Plans announced this week by communities secretary Sajid Javid to ban the sale of new homes on a leasehold basis as well as exploitative ground rents were welcomed.

But pioneering self-build architect Jon Broome warned a blanket ban risked “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. He plans to contribute to the consultation, which has opened for a two-month period.

He said: “The important thing is to make sure they don’t screw everything up and stop the creation of housing that’s affordable in perpetuity. That’s the whole point of an exercise like RUSS.”

RUSS is a self-build housing project and community land trust (CLT) in Lewisham, south-east London. Jon Broome Architects is adviser and Architype, his former practice, is the architect.

“Clearly some people are taking advantage of the leasehold system and we need a legislative framework to prevent that, but one that doesn’t prevent the benefits of using public land,” said Broome, who worked with Walter Segal.

Leasehold is used by CLTs across the country as a way of separating the value of a new home from the value of the land on which it stands – the bit that spirals in price. This allows the housing to stay affordable in perpetuity.

JTP is working on London’s first community land trust, the St Clement’s Hospital site in Mile End, as well as other CLTs including Kennett Garden Village in Cambridgeshire.

Partner Charles Campion said: “It is important that any new legislation should not undermine the growth in this important and growing sector.

“CLTs are an increasingly important component of the delivery of new homes to meet local need.

“Our project at St Clement’s with Linden Homes has enabled members of the local community to buy their own home from the very first London CLT, at prices tied to the local average wage.”

Catherine Harrington, director of the National Community Land Trust Network, said the proposals could have a significant impact on CLTs just as the community-led housing sector was ready for rapid growth.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to stamping out abusive practices by the big developers, but it shouldn’t stop communities from coming together to build the affordable housing they so badly need,” she said.

“The National CLT Network is urging the government to reflect the distinctive needs of community land trusts in its reforms to leasehold. Community land trusts are playing a key role in building a fairer housing market, but to do that they need to be exempted from these one-size-fits-all proposals.”

The government said prohibiting new homes from being sold as leasehold would apply to all houses apart from a few exceptional circumstances where leasehold was still needed, such as those that have shared services or are built on land with specific restrictions.

“It’s clear that far too many new houses are being built and sold as leaseholds, exploiting home buyers with unfair agreements and spiralling ground rents. Enough is enough,” said Javid.

“These practices are unjust, unnecessary and need to stop. Our proposed changes will help make sure leasehold works in the best interests of homebuyers now and in the future.”

* Meanwhile London mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged £30,000 to RUSS’s plans for a community hub and training facility for self-builders - but only if RUSS hits its crowdfunding goal of £55,000 by September 25.