HCA plans to sell half of Gloucestershire site after deeming mutual-ownership scheme too expensive

The government has revised proposals to pilot a new model of affordable housing after deciding it was too expensive.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) owns the Cashes Green site in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on which the concept of community land trusts (CLTs) was to be piloted. It is now due to file a planning application for the site this week and discuss alternative options.

CLTs, a concept devised in the US, are designed to make homes permanently affordable by taking the land value out of the cost of housing. Under the model, CLTs lease land to homeowners, with owners only paying the build costs of their homes. Both Tory and Labour MPs have promoted it in recent months as a way to deliver affordable housing.

Gloucestershire Land for People, the CLT, originally hoped to own the whole Cashes Green site, purchased from NHS Estates nearly four years ago, and build 77 homes. These included about 50 for mutual ownership, which would involve residents buying a share in the organisation that owns the properties rather than purchasing the home. The rest would be for affordable rent and sale on the open market.

However, the HCA said the proposals would cost three times as much as grant-funded affordable housing.

Instead, it plans to sell half the site to a developer to build homes for the open market. The rest will be owned by the CLT and will have homes for affordable rent and shared ownership. The HCA may permit the CLT to continue to own part of the shared ownership homes to ensure they remain affordable and provide some through mutual ownership.

David Warburton, area director for the HCA, said: “The CLT approach has to compare favourably with more conventional methods of providing affordable housing – it is taxpayers’ money we are talking about. We are looking for a solution that provides value for money and can be replicated elsewhere.”

The backers of the CLT disagree with the idea that the model is more expensive than others. David Drew, MP for Stroud, called the assessment “very simplistic”.