The government is considering the use of an experimental form of community ownership to deliver more affordable housing, writes Joey Gardiner.

Iain Wright, junior housing minister (pictured), announced that the communities department would issue a consultation document in the summer on options for developing community land trusts (CLTs).

CLTs are intended to make housing more affordable by subtracting the land values from the cost of homes. The government in committed to building 70,000 affordable homes a year by 2011.

Wright, speaking at a conference in London last week, said: “The role of government is as facilitator, addressing the barriers the industry faces. That’s why we’re going to invite the views of industry on how to take the debate forward.”

However, the department could give no further detail as to exactly what questions the consultation would ask, nor what the government might propose.

It is understood that the decision to issue a consultation document was taken by Wright and housing minister Caroline Flint only days before the minister’s announcement.

It’s incredibly good news, but the consultation has got to go beyond warm words.

Stephen hill, c20 futureplanners

The government is under pressure to include a statutory definition of CLTs within the Housing and Regeneration Bill, which is progressing through parliament – a move it has been resisting.

CLTs work by conferring the ownership of land among members of the trust, but this is kept separate from the cost of the homes themselves, meaning that the price of living there is not affected by land price inflation.

The Housing Corporation is currently researching how more CLTs might be brought forward, and last summer it confirmed that CLTs would be eligible to receive government housing grant for the first time.

CLTs are already popular in the US, but there are only a handful of examples in the UK, such as Stonesfield Community Trust in Oxfordshire.

Stephen Hill, director of consultancy C20 Futureplanners, said: “It’s incredibly good news, but the consultation has got to go beyond warm words. The government needs to say what actual practical institutional supports CLTs are going to need to be successful.”