It's become increasingly popular for surplus land to be considered by town & parish councils for community-led housing. We explore the reasons why.

We are seeing an increasing number of town and parish councils explore the possibility of using their surplus land for community-led housing (CLH).

The impetus may come from the community itself, or it may come from local councillors.  In either case, the individuals involved are likely to be motivated by a desire to increase the supply of affordable housing in the local area.  They wish to develop low cost homes for occupation by local people, in the long term.

Community-led housing covers community land trusts, housing co-operatives, cohousing developments and collective self-build schemes.  What all these groups have in common is that members of a community come together to develop their own solution to the housing crisis.

Why would a council want to work with a CLH group?

  • It enables a council to retain control over new housing developments, instead of being subject to the designs and ideas of private developers or housing associations. 
  • It is a meaningful way to improve lives in an area,
  • Community-led housing is not driven by profit: it is there to provide homes for those who need them most. 
  • It puts council land to good use

By working closely with CLH groups, local councils can help deliver a practical solution to the housing crisis through the development of new homes, where meaningful community involvement is at the heart of any new housing development.  A council's involvement could range from simply providing the land, to taking a more active role in promoting and developing community-led housing by establishing their own community-led housing vehicle, in partnership with local community groups.

For instance?

To give an example, we worked with a parish council in Yorkshire who had identified a small plot of land on which four houses could be built.  They conducted a housing needs survey, to identify the type of housing which was in local demand.

With a clear idea of local need, the council then established a community land trust, to which it will grant a long lease of the land to the CLT.  The houses will eventually be developed in partnership with a local housing association, to be let to local people in housing need. 

Setting up a separate entity ensured that the CLT will outlast any changes in the political landscape.  The council retained oversight over its activities through its role as a custodian member, with the right to appoint trustees to the board.  Two of the councillors acted as trustees when it was first set up. 

What can Wrigleys help with?

  • Advice on structure and process
  • Establishment of new community-led housing vehicles
  • Partnership agreements between housing associations/CLH  groups/council
  • Community asset transfers, where land is to be transferred to a CLH group
  • Leases to tenants
  • Councils acting as charitable trustee
  • Closed school sites and what to do with them.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.