“London needs community land trusts – and 2018 could be our year”

St Clements, Mile End: 23 of the 252 homes on the site are ownd by London CLT. Image: Linden Homes.

The co-director of the London Community Land Trust on how organisations like his own can help solve the housing crisis.

Londoners now agree that London need more affordable homes. There is also a political consensus, with the mayor and most local authorities making affordable housing a priority.

However, there is less consensus about what the word ‘affordable’ means, or about how to build the homes.

Let’s start with ‘affordable’. You might assume it would be linked to how much money people can afford, but you’d be wrong. Under the Localism Act 2012, affordable means anything up to 80 per cent of the local market rate. Homes sold under ‘shared ownership’ schemes, for example, can require buyers that earn £90,000 a year. Definitely not affordable for most Londoners.

Then there’s how the homes are built. Most private and public sector housebuilders fail to recognise how important social connections can be for people’s wellbeing, and the expertise people have about their neighbourhood. By not taking peoples’ relationships and expertise seriously, the mainstream approach is in danger of building homes but damaging communities. Cries of ‘social cleansing’ rise across the capital precisely in response to this approach, which risks creating a generation of people who remember this decade as the time their neighbourhood was taken from them.

So, what are Community Land Trusts (CLTs), and how can they help solve the problem? In general, CLTs exist to hold assets for the benefit of the local community, in a way that is governed democratically. Each trust is different. London CLT provides homes for people like Ruman, Humayra and Yunis.

Before moving into St. Clement’s, London CLT’s first site, they all lived in one room in Ruman’s parents’ flat. They didn’t have enough money to move out, but weren’t a priority for the council. Their choice was between cramped, difficult conditions or leaving their friends, family and community for good. The CLT provided a third option. Now they live in a 2 bedroom flat of their own, and can stay in the area they call home.

To ensure London CLT’s homes are affordable to people like Ruman and Humayra, each London CLT home is priced linked to local wages. Then, when residents move on, their lease requires them to sell the home at a price still linked to local wages. That means the homes are genuinely affordable to Londoners, and will stay that way.

The process of building London CLT’s homes is led by people who already live in an area. Each site is identified through local community organising campaigns, run in partnership with community organising charity Citizens UK. People from the area come together and are offered training in how to organise and get homes built.

The local authority is approached for its backing, often in assemblies of hundreds of people to show the support for the project. A site is then identified. Most of the sites London CLT work on are those that, without significant local support, would struggle to get through planning. CLT projects often unlock sites for housing that the private or public sector can’t.

Then, once land is secured, the same group of people make all the key decisions – how to raise the money, which architect to work with, and deciding the policy for who should get to live in the homes.

Community Land Trusts are gaining in popularity. From RUSS in Lewisham, to stART in Haringey, communities are organising to build the homes they need. Government at all levels is beginning to get on board: ministers announced the remaining £163m of the £300m Community Housing Fund in July 2018. The mayor of London has set a target to identify sites for at least 1,000 community-led homes by 2021, and set up the Community-Led Housing Hub to help support the sector. The potential for the sector to grow is substantial. In Berlin, 15 per cent of housing starts are delivered by community-led housing organisations. In England, it’s just 0.3 per cent.

CLT campaigners outside City Hall. Image: London CLT.

For London CLT, we moved our first residents into St. Clement’s in Mile End in June 2017. We now have agreements on six sites and enough land for around 160 homes, housing around 500 people in the next three or four years. Two of these sites are through TfL’s small sites programme, both announced by the mayor earlier this year.

For those in the sector, it feels like we are on the cusp of something big. Will we look back on 2018 as the year community-led housing really took off? Or a time when a few exciting projects were built, but not much more? You can probably tell which one we’re pushing for.

(A brief disclaimer: this article focuses on London. This is not because London is more important than anywhere else, it’s just that London is all I know about. There is also a growing community land trust movement in the rest of the country. To find out more check out the National CLT Network, and organisations like Leeds Community Homes, Granby 4 Streets and Bristol Community Land Trust.)

Calum Green is co-director of London Community Land Trust. Follow them @LondonCLT.


What’s killing northerners?

The Angel of the North. Image: Getty.

There is a stark disparity in wealth and health between people in the north and south of England, commonly referred to as England’s “north-south divide”. The causes of this inequality are complex; it’s influenced by the environment, jobs, migration and lifestyle factors – as well as the long-term political power imbalances, which have concentrated resources and investment in the south, especially in and around London.

Life expectancy is also lower in the north, mainly because the region is more deprived. But new analysis of national mortality data highlights a shockingly large mortality gap between young adults, aged 25 to 44, living in the north and south of England. This gap first emerged in the late 1990s, and seems to have been growing ever since.

In 1995, there were 2% more deaths among northerners aged 25 to 34 than southerners (in other words, 2% “excess mortality”). But by 2015, northerners in this age group were 29% more likely to die than their southern counterparts. Likewise, in the 35 to 44 age group, there was 3% difference in mortality between northerners and southerners in 1995. But by 2015, there were 49% more deaths among northerners than southerners in this age group.

Excess mortality in the north compared with south of England by age groups, from 1965 to 2015. Follow the lines to see that people born around 1980 are the ones most affected around 2015.

While mortality increased among northerners aged 25 to 34, and plateaued among 35 to 44-year-olds, southern mortality mainly declined across both age groups. Overall, between 2014 and 2016, northerners aged 25 to 44 were 41% more likely to die than southerners in the same age group. In real terms, this means that between 2014 and 2016, 1,881 more women and 3,530 more men aged between 25 and 44 years died in the north, than in the south.

What’s killing northerners?

To understand what’s driving this mortality gap among young adults, our team of researchers looked at the causes of death from 2014 to 2016, and sorted them into eight groups: accidents, alcohol related, cardiovascular related (heart conditions, diabetes, obesity and so on), suicide, drug related, breast cancer, other cancers and other causes.

Controlling for the age and sex of the population in the north and the south, we found that it was mostly the deaths of northern men contributing to the difference in mortality – and these deaths were caused mainly by cardiovascular conditions, alcohol and drug misuse. Accidents (for men) and cancer (for women) also played important roles.

From 2014 to 2016, northerners were 47% more likely to die for cardiovascular reasons, 109% for alcohol misuse and 60% for drug misuse, across both men and women aged 25 to 44 years old. Although the national rate of death from cardiovascular reasons has dropped since 1981, the longstanding gap between north and south remains.

Death and deprivation

The gap in life expectancy between north and south is usually put down to socioeconomic deprivation. We considered further data for 2016, to find out if this held true for deaths among young people. We found that, while two thirds of the gap were explained by the fact that people lived in deprived areas, the remaining one third could be caused by some unmeasured form of deprivation, or by differences in culture, infrastructure, migration or extreme weather.

Mortality for people aged 25 to 44 years in 2016, at small area geographical level for the whole of England.

Northern men faced a higher risk of dying young than northern women – partly because overall mortality rates are higher for men than for women, pretty much at every age, but also because men tend to be more susceptible to socioeconomic pressures. Although anachronistic, the expectation to have a job and be able to sustain a family weighs more on men. Accidents, alcohol misuse, drug misuse and suicide are all strongly associated with low socioeconomic status.

Suicide risk is twice as high among the most deprived men, compared to the most affluent. Suicide risk has also been associated with unemployment, and substantial increases in suicide have been observed during periods of recession – especially among men. Further evidence tells us that unskilled men between ages 25 and 39 are between ten and 20 times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes, compared to professionals.

Alcohol underpins the steep increase in liver cirrhosis deaths in Britain from the 1990s – which is when the north-south divide in mortality between people aged 25 to 44 also started to emerge. Previous research has shown that men in this age group, who live in the most deprived areas, are five times more likely to die from alcohol-related diseases than those in the most affluent areas. For women in deprived areas, the risk is four times greater.

It’s also widely known that mortality rates for cancer are higher in more deprived areas, and people have worse survival rates in places where smoking and alcohol abuse is more prevalent. Heroin and crack cocaine addiction and deaths from drug overdoses are also strongly associated with deprivation.

The greater number of deaths from accidents in the north should be considered in the context of transport infrastructure investment, which is heavily skewed towards the south – especially London, which enjoys the lowest mortality in the country. What’s more, if reliable and affordable public transport is not available, people will drive more and expose themselves to higher risk of an accident.

Deaths for young adults in the north of England have been increasing compared to those in the south since the late 1990s, creating new health divides between England’s regions. It seems that persistent social, economic and health inequalities are responsible for a growing trend of psychological distress, despair and risk taking among young northerners. Without major changes, the extreme concentration of power, wealth and opportunity in the south will continue to damage people’s health, and worsen the north-south divide.

The Conversation

Evangelos Kontopantelis, Professor in Data Science and Health Services Research, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.