Claire is Chair of the Faversham Community Land Trust
There was no clear decision at the Local Plan Panel meeting on the distribution of housing numbers across Swale for the next Local Plan. Faversham’s representatives voted for the A & B options, but the majority was for option C. Central government has decided that Swale has to accept 10,000 more houses in the fifteen years from 2022.
Swale cannot simply refuse the housing; the central government dictate has to be accommodated across Swale. Within Swale we can debate the distribution, specific sites and kinds of houses built. The Faversham Community Land Trust commissioned research for Arc4 to determine what kinds of housing local people need and we will be campaigning for these needs to be met.
The Faversham Society has published a really useful critique of the Options paper being considered by Swale. We were pleased to see the Faversham Society’s recognition of the importance of ensuring that the plan delivers emphasis on really or truly affordable housing in their Statement on Swale Housing Options
Swale Borough Council's Emerging Local Plan for Swale
Faversham Town Council's Neighbourhood Plan
I was talking about the aspirations of the Faversham Community Land Trust (FCLT) to my sister who lives over by Kingsdown and she wondered why we were bothering, given that hundreds of new houses were going to be built around the town. I explained that was precisely why working to create affordable, accessible homes for the people of the town, owned and run by the people of the town was so important!
We have already seen the type of houses that are being built. No matter what people say about their build quality, how they look or how closely packed they seem to be, it is obvious that they are in the main, family homes for the relatively well-off. Of course, there is talk of developers having to provide affordable housing but ‘affordable’ here means houses retailing at 80% of market price and that puts them out of reach of many local people. Also, despite the best endeavours of local planning authorities, there seems to be many a slip between plans for affordable housing and them actually being built!
So, if we don’t do something for ourselves to create places for local people to live then they will have to continue to ‘sofa surf’, or live in houses where multiple generations are crammed together, or pay rents that are unaffordable or just be forced to leave Faversham and live elsewhere. As we talked to local people we realised that there was another group we needed to worry about and that was older people being forced to live in houses that were now too big for them because they could not find suitable accommodation for them to ‘downsize’ and live independently in the town.
We should get a much clearer picture about the need for homes in Faversham because the land trust is in the middle of a big housing needs survey. Questionnaires have been sent to every household in the town and the response has been very encouraging. (If you missed the paper version then please go on to our website and complete the survey online!) The survey report is due to be published in time for our Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 15 September 2020, so we should then have a much better understanding of the kind of accommodation we need to provide either through small scale builds or conversions of existing buildings.
Everybody – people who have lived here for generations, relative newcomers like me or people just visiting the town - all say the same thing – Faversham has a really friendly mix of people who talk to each other and who also seem (as shown by our response to Covid 19) to care for one another. It would be such a shame if we were to lose that mix; if our young people (including professionals like nurses and teachers just starting out on their careers), our new families and our older people looking to downsize had to leave the town just because there were no accessible homes for them to buy or rent.
That’s why the work of the Faversham Community Land Trust seems so important. It is dedicated to creating local homes for local people. The Trust is owned and run, not by the town or borough council, not by landowners or outside developers, but by local people elected by and just as important, held accountable by our Members. Nobody makes a profit, everything is focused on creating the homes that will meet the needs of the people of Faversham.
So, let’s see how well we can do!
If you live or work in Faversham and want to be part of this growing movement, you can become a member for £1, please see our website for details.
Help! I need housing, but I’m not in ‘Housing Need’!
I am one of the Trustees of the FCLT. In my day job I work in the Housing Department of a Kent Local Authority (not Swale). We provide good quality and low-cost ‘social’ housing to people who really need it, and I am proud of the work I do.
But for all the people we can help with a home, there are many more people who we turn away. This is because to have any real chance of getting social housing, you have to be in what is known as a ‘priority need’. A priority need could be something like a health or disability need, being homeless with children, fleeing domestic abuse – things like that. These are genuine needs and people in those groups need our help for sure,`` but (thankfully) most people are not in that sort of need, they just need somewhere decent and affordable to live - and the social housing system is not so good for people like them.
People like grown-up sons or daughters – done uni, working and not earning all that much, but can’t afford to rent a place of their own and forget about buying a place. It’s OK to do a house share with a bunch of others when you’re in your 20s… but when you’re in your 30’s?
People like the working couple with a child who rent a small flat – but they cannot think about saving up for a deposit because they spend all their money on the rent, and they cannot put down roots because they are never sure that the landlord might not decide to sell up and require them to leave.
That is why I went along to the meetings when people in Faversham started talking about what we could do about it, and that is why I am so pleased to be involved with the FCLT. We are ambitious, and our ambition is to build or acquire good quality homes in Faversham so that some people who need somewhere to live but might not be in ‘priority need’ can have a chance of getting something.
We wont change the world, and we wont be able to help many people - but if we can provide even just a few secure and truly affordable homes so local people can stay in the area, then we will have done a good job.
If you have not yet completed the survey, please do, and do it now.
The Housing Needs Survey closes at midnight on 13th July. Please be sure to return your survey form to arc4 or fill the survey in online.
This survey really matters to the future of our town and your family’s housing needs. We can make a difference.
There is resentment about the building of so many new houses around Faversham most of them three and four bedrooms and priced out of the reach of many Faversham families. This is our chance to do something about this and to make it easier for children raised in the town to secure a home and bring up their children here too. The extended families, many able to trace their presence in Faversham back for generations, are a big part of what makes Faversham special. Extended families are an important part of our cultural heritage.
We established the Faversham Community Land Trust to build really affordable accommodation for our community. We commissioned the survey because we had to prove that there is real housing need in Faversham. This survey is your opportunity to provide that evidence.
The Faversham Town Council is developing a Neighbourhood Plan, and we are sharing the survey results with them. We shall be pressing for more really affordable homes, and for them to be built by local builders rather than by the big developers.
Our town needs more starter homes of the sort we have in St John’s, St Mary’s, Park Road and elsewhere. Through the Neighbourhood Plan we can demand this kind of housing and say where it should be. There are three advantages to this approach
If you have not yet completed the survey, please do, and do it now.
We formed the Faversham Community Land Trust to increase the availability of “really affordable housing” in Faversham. This would be a form of social housing. Shelter reports that across England, over 1.2 million households are on the social housing waiting list.
Shelter is the UK’s national campaign of homeless people; they have some useful, clear definitions.
“Social housing gives people a home. It’s cheaper to rent than privately rented housing and usually provides a long-term tenancy, giving renters the chance to put down roots. Social landlords tend to be councils or housing associations.”
“Social rents are lower than so-called ‘affordable’ rents which are set at up to 80% of the market rate.”
It can be difficult to understand how to apply for social housing. We have some advice pages which hope to make this easier for you.
Find out how to apply for council house, and how to get a housing association home.
Affordable Housing is defined by central government as Housing for sale or rent, for those whose needs are not met by the market (including housing that provides a subsidised route to home ownership and/or is for essential local workers) and which is made available for rent or purchase at 20% below local market value. more
Affordable Housing is not being delivered by developers.
Housing charity Shelter examined how ‘viability assessments’ reduced the number of affordable homes being built in 11 local authorities across nine cities in England. The research shows that when the loophole was used in the last year, some 2,500 affordable homes (79%) were lost from the number required by council policies.
Viability assessments allow developers to reduce the number of affordable houses they build on their site, if they can show building them risks reducing their profits to below 20%. It means many developers face no penalty for over-paying for land because they can recover the costs by reducing their commitments to building new affordable homes.
The research sampled: Birmingham, Brent, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Kensington and Chelsea, and Southwark. But the assessments are being used right across the country so the annual figure of lost houses is likely far higher.” more
FCLT's first public meeting was a great success.
Wednesday, 25 September saw the first public meeting of the Faversham Community Land Trust, and the general consensus is that it went really well, and got the newly formed CLT off to a positive start.
Technically, the meeting was a ‘Special General Meeting’, and the business end of things was to elect the new Board of Directors, but just as importantly the meeting was to launch the new organisation and to engage with the people of Faversham about what they thought should be it’s priorities.
Right from when it was just an idea, there has always been a strong view that a CLT had to involve and engage with the people of Faversham in a meaningful way. By the people and for the people, to borrow a phrase!
Over 40 people attended and part of the evening was spent in small groups, with each group thinking about what they thought should be the early priorities for the Land Trust. These were all noted down on the ubiquitous flip-chart paper, to be taken away and written up afterwards. These will be issues the new Board will be working on initially.
In advance of the meeting, all members (membership is a very important part of the Land Trust, click here for Membership details) were invited to nominate potential new Board Members. Seven of us were nominated. We all said a few words about our backgrounds and why we were keen to be involved with the Land Trust, and we were duly elected.
To help get us all inspired, we were very pleased to have guests from another Community Land Trust – the Crane Valley CLT which is based in Cranbrook in Kent – who are a bit further ahead than us and who shared some of their experience and knowledge with us.
So, that was the 1st General Meeting. Now down to business and the hard work of getting hold of some land or property and creating some truly affordable housing for Faversham. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but we are determined to get there. Check back to our blog page for future updates!