Solidarity land, a response to the housing crisis in Europe

Bulletin n°115

May 2022

Villes en développement (ADP)

« AdP - Villes en Développement » is a forum for exchange and reflection on urban development and city management in emerging countries. AdP brings together urban planners, engineers, architects, economists, geographers, sociologists, etc. who work independently or in public services and consultancy firms, and who have an entirely or alternately international career. « AdP - Villes en Développement » is the editor-in-chief of the « Villes en Développement » Bulletin from which this article is taken.

The European Interreg programme - Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities 1 - ended at the end of 2021 2. Winner of the prestigious Regiostars Awards 2020, it aimed to accompany the rise of CLT through capitalisation, support for pilot projects, reflection on financing and the establishment of a European network. Emilie Maehara, Deputy Executive Director of the Global Fund for Cities Development (GFCD), which co-piloted this programme with other organisations in Europe 3, presents the mechanism for supporting and developing community land trusts (CLT) - or organismes de foncier solidaire (OFS) - in the EU countries.

To download : bulletin-115-fr.pdf (3.7 MiB)

Since the 2000s, there has been a strong and continuous increase in housing prices in Europe, particularly in dense urban centres. In OECD countries, one third of tenants spend more than 40% of their income on housing 4. The European institutions recognise that the objectives of combating the financialisation of the housing market and ensuring access to affordable housing for the lower and middle classes are major challenges. In addition, there are growing priorities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the construction sector, which alone accounts for almost 40% of emissions in Europe.

As a result, CLT are gaining increasing international recognition 5 as a model for meeting these challenges in several countries 6. It is estimated that there are currently 170 CLT/OFS organisations in Europe. Current projects are planning to build 1,500 to 1,700 dwellings per year 7. France and Belgium are the countries where the legal and financing frameworks for CLT are the most advanced.

In France, the Alur (2014) and « For Growth and Equal Economic Opportunities » (2015) laws introduced the OFS and the joint real estate lease, aiming to create a perennial stock of social home ownership housing, kept financially affordable in the long term for eligible low-income households.

The Banque des territoires offers the Gaïa long-term loan to finance the acquisition of land by the OFS. The French OFS are developing home ownership housing, rather targeted at the middle classes. The national objective of creating new housing based on the solidarity lease model is set at 20,000 by 2024 8. As for the Brussels Capital Region, it has recently granted a preferential VAT rate of 6% against 21% to CLT projects.

Various forms of commons for a more inclusive and resilient model

Born in the United States in the 1960s, CLT are non-profit, local and democratic organisations whose mandate is to produce and manage affordable housing. Developed by local communities or organisations, the purpose of CLT is to separate the price of the building from the price of the land - a discount of 20-50% from open market prices - in order to maintain the affordability of housing.

They take various forms. However, the model necessarily relies on public funding, particularly at the time of land acquisition. The built housing is then made available either through rental or social home ownership. In France, for example, the lessee household occupies the property as its principal residence and owns real property rights which it can resell, give away or pass on by inheritance. When the land is used for a social rental operation, the lessor undertakes to rent out the property subject to a ceiling on resources and rents. It should be noted that the CLT model is not originally focused on home ownership, it promotes various types of tenure (rental, cooperative, partial ownership, etc.) but the models that receive the most support from the public authorities are a priori those geared towards home ownership (e.g. the OFS).

CLTs aspire to develop communal living, aiming at social, intergenerational and functional diversity. The majority of them target households from ethnic minorities and fragile populations - for example, disabled or elderly people.

CLT Brussels has set up Calico 9, which includes a birth and death home and flats for large families, with an intergenerational, neighbourhood and gender sensitive approach. Other projects managed by the CLT Brussels integrate local social and solidarity economy activities, such as bakeries, cooperative markets or rental community spaces.

Challenges and opportunities for CLT

Although the model is attracting a lot of interest and other collaborative housing initiatives have adopted similar modes of operation, notably in Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Central and South-Eastern Europe, CLT are faced with major challenges: inadequate legal and financial environments; difficulties in financing land; difficulties in publicising the model; lack of technical capacity, etc.

The European CLT network is continuing its exchanges with a view to enlargement, structural and financial strengthening and increased recognition of the model. One of the aims will be to provide CLT with their own financial instrument, in particular by setting up advocacy campaigns at national and European level.


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