How to make the case for community-led housing on public land

A guide for community groups

This guide is designed to help groups looking to build community-led, affordable housing development in their area overcome one of their greatest obstacles: acquiring land. Surplus public land provides a resource which could kickstart community-led, affordable development, but all too often it is sold to the highest bidder, not community groups.

We have developed this guide to help groups on their journey to securing public land for community benefit. In the sections below you will find information on existing housing development legislation, competing with private developers, and building an evidence base for community-led housing that is both affordable and protects public assets.

Community-led, affordable housing – a better use of public land

The UK is facing a major housing affordability problem, with millions of people across the country unable to access a decent and secure home. At the same time, the Government is continuing to pursue its policy of selling off land owned by Government departments, to stimulate the development of 160,000 new private homes by 2020.

This approach to boosting new housing supply through privatising land is, however, dramatically failing. Home-building activity is alarmingly slow – and our research shows that the ceding of control over public land is fuelling the affordability crisis, with only one in five of the new homes forecast to be built on public land are affordable’.

The public land sell-off is failing to lessen the housing crisis. Community-led housing provides an alternative. Standard market valuations of land sales neglect the wider benefits of housing that is affordable for the local community in perpetuity.

The guides are part of a project to make the case for using public land for genuinely affordable, community-led housing. More of NEF’s work on public land can be found here.

1. The context: legislation and regulations

How do public sector bodies sell land? And what does this mean for community groups? This section introduces the relevant rules and regulations, and shows how the legislation often leads to the sale of land to the highest bidder, not to those groups aiming to maximise community benefit.

2. Addressing the best consideration requirement – and winning

The best consideration’ requirement can seem like a huge barrier to community-led housing. But this section introduces existing options within the current legislation for community groups to access land for affordable housing. It also outlines some key campaign goals which would make this process much easier for community-led housing groups.

3. Case studies

This section provides case studies which show how best consideration’ stunts affordable housing developments, and how it can be challenged.

4. Building an evidence base

This section outlines the three steps that groups need to take to make the case that community-led affordable housing schemes generate economic and social value, in order to convince public authorities to enable schemes on public land. It provides an outline of a possible approach, and signposts to existing resources.

5. Backing up your arguments

This section provides a helpful summary of the existing research that can be used to provide evidence and support for your case for community-led housing on public land.

Written by Alice Martin and Adrian Bua.

This guide was created with the generous support of the Nationwide Foundation.
Read about the foundation’s work.

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