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The first issue faced by any Community Land Trust (CLT) is that of land availability and the route to acquiring it for housing or other asset development.

A CLT may already have a site or property in mind or, quite often, the site itself can be a catalyst to wanting to set up a land trust. However, the community will need to avoid pursuing a single site or property at the expense of exploring alternative sites, and should consider establishing a list or register of sites.

Recent changes in legislation, particularly through the Localism Act (2011) may bring new opportunities for CLTs to identify and acquire land and other assets for community benefit.

A CLT may find that land will come forward from local landowners who are swayed by the emphasis that CLTs place upon meeting local needs and the assurance that the land and homes will be stewarded in perpetuity for the benefit of the local community.

There are three principle sources of sites for CLTs, allocated sites, which could include public land for regeneration sites, windfall sites and Rural Exception sites.

Local authorities are expected to plan for growth by maintaining an adequate supply of housing land to meet the full need for market and affordable housing within the overall market area. The need must be objectively assessed and founded on evidence contained in a Strategic Housing Market Assessment. The National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) states that local authorities should ‘identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years worth of housing against their housing requirements’ with an additional buffer of 5% to ensure choice and competition in the market for land or, in areas where there has been a record of persistent under delivery of housing, this buffer is increased to 20%.

Local authorities are also required to carry out a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and the likely economic viability of a range of sites to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period. From this assessment sites will be allocated in a ‘Sites and Allocations Development Plan Document’, which identifies specific deliverable sites that will form the authority’s five year land supply and further sites that will be part of its longer term site supply.

In some cases the local authority will also have an allowance for windfall sites. These are sites that are not currently identified but which, if they meet stated requirements, will be considered for development.

The Local Plan and Development Plan Documents will also include policies that set out the size of site from which an affordable housing contribution will be required and the level of that contribution. Normally, this is in the region of 20-35% but sometimes up to 50%.

A CLT will need to know which sites have been allocated for development, the policies covering release of windfall sites and any requirements, in particular what proportion of the scheme should be affordable housing. These all have a bearing on the cost of the land and the room for negotiation on what is provided and the price of the site. A CLT could undertake the market and affordable housing themselves or, alternatively, they could work with a private developer who sells the market housing and transfers the affordable housing to a CLT at an agreed price.

Source: Community Land Trust Handbook (Community Land Trust Network)

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