Flexible co-ownership creates affordable housing options in Bellingen

The Bellingen Shire Community Land Trust Working Group in 2019. (Back row) Kerry Pearse, Margaret Girdwood, Rose West, Fran Clayton, Emma Belcher, Marie Lo Cascio. (Front row) Vicki Parkes and Vanessa Morton.

BELLINGEN Shire’s Housing Matters Action Group (HMAG) is thrilled to announce the launch of its Community Land Trust (CLT) Establishment Project, thanks to a funding partnership with the Siddle Family Foundation.

A form of shared home ownership, well-established in the UK and USA, a CLT is run by and for the community, making it affordable for people on local wages to live and work there.

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HMAG’s founding chair and CLT project lead, Kerry Pearse, told News Of The Area this moment is undeniably exciting.

“We believe this new form of flexible co-ownership of housing will help create a supply of affordable, secure homes for local people with strong connections to the Bellingen Shire,” said Kerry.

It can hold many different types of housing.

The Bellingen Shire CLT could end up with individual houses scattered across Urunga, Bellingen and Dorrigo as well as some larger developments on bigger pieces of land.

“Of course we want to see the land used to house as many people as possible so we are very interested in well designed, environmentally responsible low cost infill developments.

“This could be a couple of town houses on one block, or a three bedroom home for a family and a secondary dwelling for an older couple.

“It really depends on what land is available and the housing needs of the co-owners.”

The way the CLT works is that local residents buy in as co-owners for the value of the dwelling, not the dwelling plus the land.

Also it is possible to take a 99-year lease.

“Either way, it is much more affordable than the cost of local real estate outright.

“When people sell they can’t sell for market value because they didn’t pay market value, so the homes remain affordable for future generations,” Kerry explained.

The CLT model makes homes available for locals on local incomes.

“Those people who have some resources but just can’t afford to buy into their own community any more,” Kerry said.

This eighteen-month project is to establish the CLT.

“We will be scouring the Bellingen Shire looking for land from the government, churches and people who are able to make a contribution to help get this happening.

“We are working closely with Bellingen Shire Council and are keen to work with developers who could enter Voluntary Planning Agreements and transfer portions of land to the CLT for affordable housing into perpetuity in return for some planning concessions.

“We believe that by activating community resources and low cost land we will be able to create affordable and secure homes for locals long before any action from governments trickle down into our Shire’s backyards.”

If people know of government or church owned land near them, Kerry and the group would love to hear about it.

“Also we’d love to hear from people who might be able to help or have a bit of extra land themselves.

“Let’s tackle the housing crisis together,” she said.

For its part, the Siddle Family Foundation has a vision to “create safe homes for families to thrive”.

The family created the foundation eighteen months ago to give something back to the communities with which it felt a deep connection: Coffs Harbour (and Bellingen), Byron Bay and Gunnedah.

To get involved, or to learn more, please contact clt@housingmatters.org.au


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