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.