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Brick by brick: The building of Great Staughton Community Land Trust

Are community-led housing schemes really achievable? That question has been asked by many who may not be familiar with the Community-Led Housing (CLH) movement. Great Staughton Community Land Trust (CLT) are proving that they are, with only a few months to go until their development is complete. Read on to learn more about the CLT and their project. Great Staughton CLT embarked on their CLH journey in 2018 after identifying a lack of truly affordable properties within their community. The intention was to provide affordable homes for local people and key workers who would be otherwise unable to afford to live there. This is often the case in rural communities where house prices and rents quickly becoming prohibitive to those who live and work in the area. With this in mind, land owned by Great Staughton Parish Charities was identified as a possible site for affordable housing. After numerous discussions with Huntingdonshire District Council, securing a partnership with Chorus Homes, now Places for People, and undertaking a housing needs survey through Cambridgeshire ACRE’s rural housing service, the foundations for an affordable housing scheme were laid. After nearly two years of work, planning permission was submitted in September 2020 and granted in June 2021. The approval paved way for the development of 12 homes; 9 social rent and 3 shared ownership properties. The properties range from 1 – 3 bedrooms, allowing them to suit a variety of different people with individual needs. The agreement to provide the homes as social rent also means that residents who are successful in applying for the homes will pay around 50-60% of the market rate for those properties. On 18 October 2021, the developers, Aspen Homes, officially started on site. The CLT and the community watched on as fences and signs began to appear marking the site boundary. Despite a few minor setbacks, by the summer of 2022 the sight of bricks, scaffold and roof trusses dominated the site. In early September 2022, Eastern Community Homes had the opportunity to meet with the CLT and join them on a site visit. As soon as you enter the site you can appreciate that this is a well thought out scheme, appropriately designed to its surroundings. It is spacious, inviting and fitting with the character of the village. Although work is still to complete, the CLT have much to be proud of. The CLT and future residents are now eagerly awaiting completion of the properties, which is expected by the end of January 2023. We hope to be back with them in the new year to help celebrate this incredible achievement. The scheme will be a first for Huntingdonshire and hopefully pave the way for future community-led housing projects, building on the success at Great Staughton.

Ten things you need to know about building affordable homes in a rural community

Is affordable housing something you think is needed in your rural community and you’re not sure where to start?

It can be a daunting process, especially if the world of housing is new to you. Here are 10 things you should know to make the start of your journey that much easier.

  1. Affordable housing is housing which is for sale or rent for those who cannot meet their needs on the open market. It consists of a range of tenures including affordable rent, social rent and shared ownership.
  2. A good supply of affordable homes is hugely beneficial to rural communties. They help people remain in the areas they grew up in. In turn this ensures local jobs are filled, local businesses are supported and a resilient community is built and maintained.
  3. Rural exception sites are a common delivery method for rural affordable housing. These are small sites within or on the edge of settlements that would not normally be used for housing. They are instead used to provide affordable housing to solely address the needs of the community.
  4. Homes built on rural exception sites remain affordable in perpetuity. This prevents any new affordable homes built in a community being lost down the line.
  5. Affordable homes in rural communities are often built, owned and managed by either a housing association or the local authority. Cambridgeshire ACRE works in partnership with many of these and can introduce you to possible partners should you want to progress with a scheme.
  6. Community-led housing is an alternative method to bring forward rural affordable homes that may be a good option for some communities. Eastern Community Homes is the community-led housing hub in the East of England and can advise on the options for community-led housing and whether they are right for a community.
  7. Parish councils and local residents are incredibly valuable in developing rural housing. At the end of the day, they are the experts of their local community and by being on board can help dispel myths, assure residents the scheme will be developed with them and keep the community involved and informed – communication is key in rural housing!
  8. Rural exception sites and community land trusts allow the community to be involved in decisions such as number and type of homes, the site for the homes and what the homes will look like.
  9. Investigating the need for affordable housing is a must. Housing needs surveys are almost always required on rural schemes to ensure that the development meets the needs of the community. This is achieved via a questionnaire sent to all residents of a parish to identify the amount of affordable housing needed and of what type it needs to be.
  10. Speak to your local rural housing enabler and community-led housing advisors. They are the experts in delivering rural affordable homes and will support you through the entire process. Contact the team at Eastern Community Homes.