Capital gains

Erasia found out about the Community Land Trust from a flyer in her son’s school. Bill Tanner sees how the London scheme sets an example for the capital and beyond.

train2 final

Community… Land… Trust… Three values Erasia could pass on to her son’s generation, encompassed in a single concept.

In 2016 in Lambeth, the London borough in which Erasia was born and raised, citizens launch the Community Land Trust (CLT) campaign.

Young people from the Advocacy Academy play a large part, along with the local Methodist church and synagogue.

Together, they put faith in a fenced-off weed and litter strewn ‘blank canvas’, just off the borough’s Christchurch Road, where pre-fabs built for Londoners displaced by the Blitz once stood.

The average cost of a house in Lambeth has risen to around 15 times the borough’s average wage in Lambeth. But Erasia loves Lambeth – its memories, friendships and ties mean it will always be home.

“It is incredibly upsetting that the prospect of owning or renting an affordable home, to call my own, is completely out of my grasp,” Erasia says.

“I found out about the CLT through a flyer that was put up in my son’s school. It really is a fantastic organisation and a rare opportunity to not only voice my frustrations about the housing crisis, but to work with members of my community to channel these frustrations, in order to bring about change in our community.”

As a child, Constantino Christou, Chair of the Lambeth Community Land Trust (CLT) campaign, would gaze from train windows at the upmarket apartment blocks under construction and wonder in which one of them would he live.

But, like many young Londoners, he grew to be “disillusioned and pessimistic” about the future for a city that seemingly couldn’t house coming generations.

Until he discovered CLT.

To Constantino, what makes CLT innovative lies in the nature of the campaign itself, run as it is by a diverse group of Londoners, of different ages and professions, coming together to fight for a new model for affordable housing – and based on the average incomes of locals rather than 80% of market value inexplicably defined as affordable.

“The campaign goes beyond the logistics of securing sites and getting homes built; as a youth-led campaign, we strive to educate as many people as possible about the housing crisis,” says Constantino, stressing the importance of youth participation in CLT schemes.

In November 2017, James Murray, London deputy Mayor for Housing, told a London Citizens Assembly of Transport for London (TfL) that sites would be set aside for community-led housing.
Murray kept his word and the Small Sites Small Builders scheme that came out of it included Christchurch Road.

London CLT worked with Lambeth locals to draw up a bid that City Hall, in June last year, deemed a winner.

Now, Christchurch Road runs its home stretch, moving through the planning application process for the 27 homes intended and toward a point where the thoughts and feeling of the local community can be integrated into the campaign going forward.

Captain John Clifton, London Community Land Trust board member, participated in negotiations with James Murray about support for CLTs in London – including Lambeth and his own borough, Redbridge, which is set for 250 CLT homes.

“There is so much development going on around where we live – tower block after tower block – that is totally out of our control,” he says.

“CLTs give us a way to be genuinely involved in building homes that are for and by local people.

“With CLT homes, the hundreds of us involved in the campaign can point to them and say, ‘those are ours, we built them,’ and they will stay genuinely affordable, prices linked to local incomes, forever.”

Leave the last word then to that kid who once gazed from train windows: “I can only imagine how it will feel to eventually stand in front of homes that I helped to get built.

“These will not only offer permanently affordable homes, but a glimmer of hope for Londoners who no longer believe affordable housing exists in their city.”