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Local councils and community-led housing

28 October 2020

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.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of community led housing further, please contact Emma Ridge or any other member of the dedicated Community Led Housing team on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys charities team on Twitter here

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.

Emma Ridge View Biography

Emma Ridge


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