Enabling Community Land Trusts in Australia

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Over recent years, numerous intertwined housing issues have intensified in Australia regarding the environmental impact, liveability, social equity and affordability of our housing stock and choices.



Authors: Louise Crabtree, Carolyn Sappideen, Stewart Lawler, Rebecca Conroy, Joanne McNeill

Over recent years, numerous intertwined housing issues have intensified in Australia regarding the environmental impact, liveability, social equity and affordability of our housing stock and choices. This is driving the exploration and implementation of a diverse range of design forms; development and procurement processes; tenure and governance options; and costing mechanisms. Internationally, community land trusts (CLTs) have shown the capacity to embed and embody diversity across all of those options. That capacity is a key driver of the ongoing analysis of how CLTs might be enabled in Australia, including this book and its predecessor, The Australian Community Land Trust Manual. It is strongly advised that these two publications be read in combination.

This book is based in research that builds on The Australian Community Land Trust Manual (‘the Manual’). The Manual introduced CLT principles to an Australian audience and provided conceptual background, practical advice and template documents to underpin the establishment of an Australian CLT sector. The Manual was the result of Phase 1 of a two-phase research project undertaken by Western Sydney University in partnership with six public and community agencies across New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. The Manual’s core components were:

  1. an overview of CLTs
  2. their relevance and potential in Australia
  3. potential tax issues
  4. possible organisational structures
  5. preliminary financial modelling
  6. overview of reversion (i.e. resale) formulas
  7. two possible legal mechanisms (long-term leasehold and modified shared equity – also called co-ownership)
  8. a model long-term lease, co-ownership deed and constitution.

The aim of both phases of the research and the two published volumes is to present findings from original research into the ways in which models based on CLT principles can be implemented in Australia. This is intended to both help establish a sector and provide knowledge to support the sector. The work has been funded and guided by organisations either involved or interested in the emergent CLT sector in Australia, with an express view to inform the establishment of housing models based on CLT principles in Australia.

The findings of Phase 2 of the research underpin this book. A team of Western Sydney University and University of Sydney researchers undertook Phase 2 with funding from ten partners across New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria; hence the book focuses on those three jurisdictions. The book covers emerging legal questions, preliminary case studies and lending considerations, including qualitative data regarding the emerging market for resale-restricted home ownership options such as CLTs.

The book explains the challenges of models that attempt to separate fixtures from land. Given those challenges and the ability to implement permanent affordability without separating fixtures, the authors remain of the opinion that the models discussed in the Manual remain the more readily implemented ‘lowhanging fruit’ for the articulation of CLT principles in Australia. In medium- and high-rise scenarios, strata title in buildings held entirely by a CLT may also offer a workable option.

This book therefore builds on and complements the Manual in two main ways: firstly, by addressing questions emerging from the sector, including considerations for financial institutions looking to lend to residents buying their housing equity; and secondly, by documenting case studies of organisations establishing CLT housing in a range of locations and markets.

In addition, the explanation of legal approaches to separating land from fixtures and of various formal Trust structures is provided in response to two ongoing ‘burning’ questions in the sector:

• the ongoing perception that it is either necessary or readily possible to separate fixtures from land in order to implement CLT principles in Australia
• the use of the word ‘Trust’ in the legal name of a CLT, which is not recommended, as explained in Chapter 8.

There is ongoing and intensifying interest in cost reduction, ecological and social sustainability, and design innovation in the emerging CLT sector, as organisations seek to build high-quality, community-oriented and low-impact homes. Consequently, the book also explains housing development processes and provides relevant guidance to organisations looking to develop CLT housing, including more innovative approaches that may have resonance for CLTs. Lastly, it presents data from focus groups with younger individuals who are currently unable to buy in the open market. The focus groups showed almost universal interest in permanently affordable, resale-restricted homes regardless of whether this was made available through a lease or a co-ownership deed.