Reimagining Affordable Housing from the Ground Up: Community Land Trust Models

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This scenario has been developed on the basis of a real world case.

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Imagine a city where residents of limited means co-develop affordable, decent and socially sustainable housing on communally-owned land with the help of public and private support.

How might a city create this future?

It may start with collaboration between housing associations in the city. Due to a housing crisis causing shortfalls in affordable decent housing for low-income and marginalised groups, such associations are likely to be active and looking for ways to make change. An idea they might take up is community owned and governed affordable housing.

How could they learn from similar initiatives to get the ball rolling?

In dreaming up this idea, they could build on collective experiences in the city with other affordable housing projects, such as a solidarity savings group or a passive solar building to house low income migrant families. For further inspiration and advice, a site visit to a successful model of community owned and governed affordable housing in another city should provide more concrete details, such as how to arrange their own governance system. The governance system adopted by this initiative should place current and future residents at its core, engaging them in community-based decision making and giving them high levels of responsibility over the development and management of their buildings.

The caretakers of this increasingly concrete idea may wish to promptly use their collective expertise and influence to form a united appeal for the local government’s support. Such a productive and early engagement of these groups with the local government just might be crucial for the idea to take off, since government endorsement and funding will be essential.

Where might funding come from?

If the local government recognizes this as an innovative opportunity to provide residents with decent, affordable housing, they could provide financial support to start-up, operate, and grow the initiative. This would likely come in the form of continued grants and investment subsidies. Revenue from residents’ mortgages would compliment this funding source, in addition to non-government grants and donations.

Are there any risks to this financial arrangement?

Unfortunately, such a heavy dependence on one funding source could be risky for the initiative. Since if government priorities change, the annual investment subsidies may be jeopardized. In the event of lost public funding, it would be necessary to turn to alternate sources such as charities and other funding organizations. Additionally, if all goes well, the affordable housing innovation will grow and need to secure increased reliable funding for its sustained operation into the future without over stretching capacities.

How might individual successes grow?

Trusting that government support will be retained, or that sufficient alternate funding is found, the future of a city with innovative governance of affordable housing comes into focus. Momentum builds as more projects are replicated and are able to serve more people in need. Initiative champions may even increase their ambitions to enable a wider movement to bring similar success to cities across Europe.

How could this reality be created in your city? What obstacles would have to be overcome?

Do you want to learn more about this scenario?

Take a look at the detailed description of Community led affordable housing in Brussels that has inspired this scenario. The Community Land Trust Brussels is social real estate developer that builds affordable housing projects on collectively-owned land in Brussels for people with limited means. It purchases land and engages with future residents and community partners to co-create affordable housing. Check out their website, https://cltb.be/en/

This scenario relates to some enabling governance arrangements:

  • Commit to a meaningful participation process - Local residents have been both the founders and drivers of this initiative. They informed its priorities (e.g. reducing energy poverty) and guided its actions (e.g. democratic decision-making).
  • Tap into existing community networks - The self-organisation of like-minded community groups was important for acquiring government support and for learning about previous affordable housing experiences.

It fits under the approaches:

It addresses some drivers of injustice:

What do you think about this scenario? Was it helpful to you? Do you find our approach problematic? Send us an email to Philipp Spaeth.