Activists transform an abandoned hospital into affordable housing in London

Here's the problem: As home prices soar, cities around the world face a crisis of affordability. In London, U.K., the situation is especially acute: According to a 2016 Lloyds Bank study, the ratio of average home sales price compared to average earnings is 10-to-6. Without the means to meet monthly mortgage costs (let alone a down payment) low- and moderate-income residents are often locked out of home ownership and the opportunity to build equity. Meanwhile, land use is determined by profit maximization rather than nonmaterial factors like social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

 Activating the Urban Commons

Here's how one organization is working on the problem: One response to this affordability crisis is the use of community land trusts. Community land trusts permanently remove land from the conventional property market and distribute long-term leases according to community priorities, thereby increasing the supply of affordable housing. London Community Land Trust (LCLT), the capital city's first such organization, originated in negotiations between the activist group now known as Citizens UK and the 2012 Olympic bid team. When the bid team suggested a pilot community land trust project, the newly-formed LCLT (until 2015, the East London Community Land Trust) worked with the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority to incorporate community land trust housing into a scheme to redevelop St. Clements Hospital, shuttered since 2005. In fact, LCLT has secured an agreement to build at least 20 community land trust homes on the East Wick and Sweetwater neighborhood, and is supporting similar efforts in Lewisham.

Results:

  • LCLT allocated the homes to income-qualified applicants from an original pool of 700. The homes will be sold at approximately one-third of their open market value: one-, two-, and three-bedroom homes at £130,000, £182,000, and £235,000 ($168,000, $235,000, and $304,000), respectively.
  • Resale is restricted to LCLT-approved prospective buyers, with home sellers to recoup their original investment plus a portion of appreciated value as contracted with LCLT. Other community benefits include sustainable architecture, green spaces and play areas, community space in a refurbished St. Clements building, and proximity to public transit and Cemetery Park.
  • The larger St. Clements project, comprising 252 new homes built by Linden Homes with JTP Architects (architect and master planner) and the Greater London Authority, has received several awards, including Overall Winner and Best Scheme in Planning at the National Housing Awards 2014. 

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This case study is adapted from our latest book, "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons." Get a copy today.

Header image of the John Denham building, St. Clement’s provided by diamond geezer.
 
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