East London Land Trust gets go-ahead for low-cost housing at St Clement’s

Artist impression of new development

Artist impression of new development - Credit: East London Community Land Trust

The New Year is starting with a victory in London’s overcrowded East End for community leaders who have been campaigning for 10 years to set up Britain’s first urban land trust for low-cost housing.

Land Trust director Dave Smith

Land Trust director Dave Smith - Credit: Archant

The formal planning go-ahead has been given to the East London Community Land Trust to redevelop the old St Clement’s Hospital site in Mile End, with construction due to start in the spring.

St Clement's in Mile End Road

St Clement's in Mile End Road - Credit: Archant

“We need more community land trusts to make sure London doesn’t become a home for the rich and the ruthless,” the Land Trust’s Dave Smith said. “St Clements is just the start—these will be genuinely-affordable homes at prices people on local wages can actually afford.”

The trust, which got planning permission earlier this month from Tower Hamlets council, keeps ownership of the land, selling the housing on it to families at half the London market value which is sold back when the families move on—ready for the next generation of home-buyers.

Some 252 homes are being built at the six-acre former psychiatric hospital originally built as a parish workhouse in 1848. It includes 23 new “permanently affordable” Land Trust homes, based on what people on local average incomes can afford, rather than the market rate.

The original Grade II-listed Victorian structures are being refurbished as part of the redevelopment, with the ornate front building in the Mile End Road turned into a community centre and café.

Tower Hamlets councillor Rachael Saunders, whose Mile End ward includes St Clement’s, said: “Getting planning permission for permanently-affordable homes is a step towards proving that another way of tackling the East End’s housing crisis is possible.”

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The Land Trust calculates the cost a home by taking the median Tower Hamlets average wage and seeing what mortgage families can afford on that salary. House prices are tied to local wages rather than the ever-rocketing London market rate.

Prices are likely to range from £125,000 for a one-bed flat to £240,000 for a three-bedroom house, compared to current average East End prices from £301,500 to £441,000. Half the homes at St Clement’s are for social-renting, set below the government’s ‘affordable rent’ level of 80 per cent market rate.

The East London Community Land Trust started in 2003 as a campaign by Telco, The East London Community Organisation, now London Citizens UK, urging the London 2012 Olympic Bid Team to set aside an area for a land trust after the Games. The Mayor of London pledged the land trust model would be used as part of the Olympic Park housing legacy.

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