By Jodie Nesling
A new housing scheme led by locals will build affordable homes for isle families – with land already earmarked for development.
Thanet Community Housing is a Land Trust, which means members of the community have a say in the decision-making process behind the purchase of land to build homes for families in the area.
Founding member and trustee Grace Rae says setting up the trust has taken months of work behind the scenes.
She said: “I have known about Land Trusts for about a decade and always thought they were a brilliant idea – groups of people building homes for local families, offering genuine affordability.
“We started in March and there’s been a lot of work creating the legal entity, but just as we were looking to publicise it Covid-19 and lockdown took place.
“But essentially we are now looking at buying two sites. There is an area of land in Minster in St Mary’s Road which is council-owned. We are also in discussions with the private owner of a long term derelict site in Clifton Street, Cliftonville.”
The Thanet-wide board of trustees possesses a range of diverse and specialist skills that offer a wealth of expertise when navigating what is a sometimes complex process.
The chair, Angela Curwen, formerly owned Kent Crisps and Kentish Oils and most recently stood for parliament as the Lib Dem candidate for North Thanet.
Other volunteers include Cliftonville architect Tamsin Landells of RLA, whose ethos explores sustainability and sourcing renewable materials in the face of climate change.
Due to second home ownership and rising costs there are now around 1,946 people waiting on the council housing list.
Figures in August also revealed there are currently 1,273 empty homes across the isle, and that of those just 33 are council-owned.
Ms Rae says the combination of empty homes, substandard housing and rising market prices – partly due to creeping gentrification – are exacerbating an already untenable situation.
She explained: “I was on furlough and wanted to do something meaningful to help so started assisting at the foodbank and it was while delivering parcels in Cliftonville that I realised the disparity of the living conditions.
“Neighbouring homes with the same number of tenants would be vastly different, with some families living in terrible conditions.”
While the council has worked hard to build new homes, it is also supportive of the new community initiative and has awarded them a £10,000 grant to help with their initial set-up.
Ms Rae, who moved to Cliftonville three years ago, says housing will be awarded to families who are long term residents.
She said: “It’s very exciting. The hope is that it goes on to much bigger things.”
To join Thanet Community Housing for £1 and to vote on decision making visit thanetcommunityhousing.org.
What are CLTs?
Community land trusts (CLTs) are set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets important to that community, like community enterprises, food growing or workspaces.
CLTs act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area, not just for now but for every future occupier.
There are now over 290 CLTs, half of which formed in the last two years.
Information provided by the National Community Trust