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The team behind the launch of the European CLT Network, outline how the Community Land Trust model (CLT) can respond to the housing challenge in Europe and why now is the right time for the network’s launch.

Image: Vincent de Lannoy

Why Community Land Trusts

Across Europe, housing is increasingly unaffordable and out-of-reach for many people. Instead of reflecting citizens’ right to housing, the system supports the interests of finance, with ownership and control concentrated in the hands of the few. Community Land Trusts (CLTs) own and develop land for the benefit of the community. With more than 300 CLTs in existence, they are a proven way of unlocking community-led, high-quality, permanently affordable housing for all, ready to be scaled across Europe.

Almost always, the cost of our housing is tied to rising land prices, meaning that although a property doesn’t change, it goes up in price when the land value increases. CLTs disrupt traditional ownership structures by making an important distinction between homes and the land on which they’re built, so that while the homes belong to their residents, as we are used to, the land beneath them is, instead, collectively-owned and held in trust. This protects from increasing land values and ensures that homes can remain affordable in perpetuity.

CLTs put communities at the heart of what they do. They engage communities throughout their development processes, and involve them in their governance. They empower communities to play an active part in their environments.

Success Stories from Around the World

World Habitat has played a pivotal role in the dissemination of the CLT model. Three CLTs have been recipients of the World Habitat Gold Award in the past: Champlain Housing Trust, Caño Martín Peña CLT in 2015, and CLT Brussels in 2021.

CLTs are one successful, proven way of countering the housing affordability crisis. For example, in London, the sales prices of CLT homes are as low as 27% of market value. With the increasing costs of living, particularly the cost of housing, it’s time for CLTs to be treated with the same legitimacy as other housing providers.

The Time is Now to Expand the CLT model in Europe

This is why the European Community Land Trust Network is launching. The Network will provide a platform for hundreds of CLTs to connect, and our power in numbers will allow us to expand the model across the continent.

The Network’s pursuit of permanent housing affordability across Europe creates a platform for member CLTs to share their learning, build their capacity, and become more effective advocates. At the same time, the Network seeks to grow the movement by supporting the creation of new CLTs and reaching new countries. CLTs are already active across the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain and there is growing interest across Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

As its European voice, the Network aims to raise awareness of the CLT model, and its members, among policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and activists in the cooperative housing sphere. It will spearhead awareness and advocacy campaigns, and collaborate with development partners to drive social, design, construction and environmental innovation within housing.

As a sign of things to come, the European Network, in collaboration with the England & Wales CLT Network, is undertaking action learning research looking at pathways to scaling CLTs through partnerships with housing associations and private developers. In England & Wales alone, they estimate that with the right policy and industry support, the CLT movement could build 278,000 CLT homes, 80% of which would not be built without the CLT.

City governments from Barcelona to Brussels are looking at CLTs as a solution to their housing affordability issues and introducing policies that support their growth. Private developers are interested in partnering with CLTs, learning from their best practice and using them as a test bed for innovation. Mainstream banks are starting to demonstrate openness in lending to residents of community-led housing. The time is ripe to launch the European Network to harness and build on this momentum.

Join us at the Network’s Launch

We are delighted to confirm that the European Community Land Trust Network will be launched next week at International Social Housing Festival in Barcelona. At a tipping point for Community Land Trusts in Europe, we’ll first hear from Leilani Farha, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and Global Director of The Shift. We’ll then pass the microphone to our members to hear their stories on pathways and partnerships for scaling, from Barcelona CLT’s collaboration with the City Government to the England and Wales’ Community Land Trust Network’s action learning research on partnership with the wider real estate sector. You can register here to attend.

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