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REPORT – SOA CLT Cafe No.2, March 2021

On 31st March SOA held a second online Community Land Trust Cafe, as part of our SHICC partnership.

The purpose of this event was to expand on SOA’s first CLT webinar by delving into more detail on the processes involved in setting up a Community Land Trust (CLT) in Ireland. As such, SOA invited speakers to discuss the practicalities of building membership and establishing governance structures, acquiring land and raising finance for development. Speakers also described their approaches to bringing in required political support. Presentations referenced projects that involve renovation and refurbishment of existing disused buildings, along with new-build initiatives.

Attendees were invited to contribute to the SOA/SHICC project and to consider how a broad CLT network might be formed in Ireland. All speaker presentations were recorded and videos of presentations are available on our SHICC Events page.

A total of 60 participants attended the event.

Key Takeaways

London CLT is addressing the lack of affordable housing in London for the ‘missing middle’, those not catered for by social housing, and who are priced out of the private market:

  • LCLT grew out of the community organising work of Citizens UK, who focus on building power for citizens through collective action. Rooted in localised areas of London, LCLT’s work mobilises ‘cold anger’, that is, grit and determination in bringing much-needed changes to a neighbourhood. 
  • LCLT is an umbrella organisation, which develops homes but also supports capacity building of locally based CLTs across London. LCLT prioritises identifying key ‘leaders’ and stakeholders in a given neighbourhood, focusing campaigns on an identified site which the local community aims to build on, and building the capacity of local communities to create a sustainable CLT. Power analysis is essential, understanding who the key influential local stakeholders are and the CLT’s relationship with each of them. 
  • Price of LCLT homes is linked to local earnings, and tends to be approximately half the price of open market homes in the area. Resale prices are restricted via a covenant which ensures that residents leaving must sell their homes back to the CLT at prices linked to local earnings. Eligibility for homes is based on a set of criteria developed by LCLT which take account of connection to the local area and housing need.
  • LCLT have developed a Site Identification toolkit, to assist local residents in identifying suitable sites for a CLT in their neighbourhood.

Inclusive Neighbourhoods is a Callan-based project, focused on developing an Irish model in which people of different ages, needs for support, and income levels can live in a shared neighbourhood.:

  • This project emerged from work at the KCAT arts centre in Callan, and is rooted in a very particular context, building on the current thinking generated from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability, which recommends that people with disabilities should actively participate, with support, in society as a whole. Self-determination and inclusion are vital cornerstones of the project, and it also has a strong environmental and community farming agenda. The project has expanded from originally focusing on and achieving planning for 25 participatively designed homes, to realising that a mixed range of uses for the land is essential to creating a genuinely inclusive neighbourhood. 
  • The key principle behind the Threefold Community Asset Trust (TCAT) is to do with an organisation that can flexibly address a multitude of specific local needs, including those of housing, cultural elements, and an economy that can manage sharing. These principles were operating successfully already in local communities in Callan, but are becoming increasingly difficult to develop in a ‘highly regulated’ market and society. The TCAT process aims to transfer assets which have been owned by Camphill Communities of Ireland, including building sites, fields, and sheds used for cultural and enterprise projects, to a trust which will manage these assets and make them available for the common interest of the local community.

Midsteeple Quarter (MSQ) aims to entirely revitalise the urban centre of Dumfries through community ownership. The CLT seeks to address the issues of town centre decline and absentee ownership. Its strategy is based on the acquisition and redevelopment of all properties within an urban neighbourhood to provide mixed-use community facilities, business space and housing.

  • Mike and Annabel represent South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH), whose work until recently was primarily focused on rural housing. SOSCH are supporting the MSQ as their first urban endeavour. SOSCH’s work is focused on community ownership of land and assets, and is underpinned by Scottish land reform legislation which aims to create more equal ownership of land. This legislation (and associated funding streams for Community-Led Housing) originally had a rural focus, and did not apply to urban areas until 2016. The Scottish government have recently launched a new housing strategy which includes funding for urban community-led housing, a commitment of £325m for place-based town centre regeneration led by communities, including housing. 
  • Scotland has a similar challenge to Ireland in respect to CLTs, as under Scottish law you cannot separate land and buildings. Ownership of land is absolute since abolition of the feudal system, and that idea of autonomous ownership is very important to the way SOSCH work. 
  • The town of Dumfries is the largest regional capital in south-west Scotland, and has been blighted by town centre decline and lots of empty properties. About 11 years ago a group of artists dispersed across the region decided to return home to Dumfries and see if they could make a collective difference. They essentially squatted in an empty building in the town centre and over time created a cafe, a performance space and a series of studios for create professionals, which were collectively named ‘The Stove’. The organisation began to ask questions about the decline of the town centre, and its future as a 21st century town, which began the focus on the Midsteeple Quarter area.
  • The MSQ project has taken 8 Georgian properties on the high street into community ownership for a range of uses. Absentee ownership had left these buildings vacant and neglected, particularly the upper floors. The town council had spent the last 20 years trying to attract commercial retail back to the town centre, with little success. The Stove Network originally received one vacant building from the council and they set up a space to engage with the community around future plans for the town. In 2018 a Community Benefit Society (CBS) called The Midsteeple Quarter was launched, including 400 members from the Dumfries area. This project is the first community buy-out of a high street in the UK. A series of buildings called ‘The Oven’ were acquired from the council in 2018 under a Community Asset Transfer. Demolition in preparation for a mixed-use development (including housing) started this year. Buildings are occupied by creative ‘meanwhile uses’ until construction begins. 

Conclusion + Resources

A full report and videos of speaker presentations from the Cafe are available here.

SOA noted the recent completion of our Roadmapping a Viable Community-Led Housing Sector for Ireland publication, and its upcoming launch event on Thursday May 13th, 2021. This event offers a focal point for advocates of Community-Led Housing and Community Land Trusts to attend, to draw their local representatives’ attention to, and to lobby government to provide tangible support for Community-Led Housing. Following this event, SOA will host a third Community Land Trust Cafe in June/July 2021. Those interested in starting a CLT, or building a CLT network, are encouraged to get in touch at hello@soa.ie.

Thursday 13th May, 12:00 - 13:30

SOA Launch Event

Introducing our new publication:

Roadmapping a Viable Community-Led Housing Sector for Ireland