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Community Land Trusts

Volume 455: debated on Tuesday 23 January 2007

15. What assessment her Department has made of the role of community land trusts in affordable housing projects. (117383)

Community land trusts are an interesting and promising new option for delivering affordable housing. The Housing Corporation and English Partnerships are working with a number of potential community land trusts, with the aim of getting some viable pilot schemes established.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Has she assessed the value of these projects and what the resource costs might be?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and he is absolutely right to say that we need to look at the evidence to see how these projects can contribute to our affordable housing targets, and whether tenants should be able to have a greater say over their own estates and housing developments, and what difference that would make. That is precisely why the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships are working with a number of potential projects to help them get up and running. They hope to have a number up and running by this summer, and some on site by the end of next year.

Supplementary planning gain, or, to use its proper name, a roof tax, will certainly make land scarcer and more expensive. How does the Secretary of State equate the need to build more affordable housing, which I accept, with that tax?

The hon. Gentleman knows that we have the Planning-gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill in place, so that we can consider all the issues in detail. Frankly, our proposals, which look seriously at the need for more infrastructure provision and the need to finance it, are far more credible than the position adopted by the Conservatives, who have no proposals whatsoever for funding greater infrastructure.

Does my right hon. Friend know that the northern housing forum recently met the Minister for Housing and Planning, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), to suggest that land already in council ownership should be allowed to be released at nil, or below market, value, so that houses affordable to ordinary people could be built on it?

I am aware of the meeting that has recently taken place between Bolton At Home and my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning, and I know that this was one of the issues considered at that meeting. It has come up with an incredibly interesting and innovative proposal to use local authority land so that people have much greater access to low-cost home ownership. I understand that that bid is in with the Northern Housing Challenge and will be considered, and I hope that a shortlist will be announced soon.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for her warm words about community land trusts and will take them as an implicit endorsement of our policy to use them as a way of increasing housing supply and aiding low cost home ownership. I am sure that she will be aware that the Scottish community land unit provides pre-development support for those who wish to set up CLTs and has access to money from the Big Lottery Fund. We are all aware that Scottish expertise will be playing a bigger part in the Labour party in the months to come, so can the Secretary of State assure me that she will pre-empt that move by learning from Scotland and making money available from the Big Lottery Fund for those in England and Wales who wish to access low-cost home ownership through CLTs?

May I say how wholeheartedly I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to look at all sources of funding and, indeed, land for new affordable housing. Indeed, we will look at any option that he or anyone else puts forward to increase the supply of land for that purpose. I read recently of the hon. Gentleman’s claim that his new-found interest in community land trusts was inspired by the Levellers of the English civil war. I am rather more interested in the current civil war in the Conservative party on whether to build new homes for affordable housing. Indeed, only last month the hon. Gentleman said, “I think”—