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What does the Land Society CIC do?

We provide support for affordable community self build housing

We support people in housing need in towns and villages to self build their own affordable home. We provide all the technical and professional input to enable people to get together as a community in a Community Land Trust (CLT) to buy suitable land and build energy efficient, affordable, sustainable homes.

At the moment we are mainly working in Teignbridge, Buckfastleigh and Plymouth in South Devon. Over the next two or three years we expect to also start working in adjacent areas in the South West of England.

Simple, sustainable house design and construction

Our architects provide simple adaptable designs intended specifically for self-build. They feature:
  • Passive solar design to make the most of the warmth from the sun – even in winter
  • Very high insulation (e.g. straw bale walls and wool based roof insulation) and thermal mass (e.g. rammed earth) so you need much less heating
  • Locally sourced, natural materials and simple, mainly hand tools build
  • Ground floor bedroom and space for shower room to meet ‘Lifetime standards’
  • Heating and hot water provided by renewable energy where possible
  • Where permitted, either dry compost loos or reed bed system for reduced use of water and sewerage
  • Rainwater harvesting

For local people in housing need

You are eligible for this scheme if you
  • do not own a home that is available for you to live in,
  • cannot afford to buy on the open market locally and
  • have strong connections with your parish or town e.g. have lived or worked locally for two years, have lived there for five years in the past or have strong family ties
The detail of these criteria does vary from place to place depending on the requirements of the local planning authority. Where more people are interested than can be accommodated, there will be selection criteria based on housing need and strength of local connection.

Self builders pay a £5,000 deposit and between £650 and £700 a month

You will own your house on a shared ownership basis, with the local CLT always owning 25% to keep the house affordable permanently for local people. You will own 25% of the house when you finish building it in return for your labour and a £5,000 deposit (paid in stages). You then have the option to buy another 50% of the equity. You can either do this with a mortgage, or with a ‘rent to buy’ option which, for a three bedroom house costs in the region of £630 a month. The ‘rent to buy’ option suits people who can afford rent payments and to save up a little towards buying more equity but whose circumstances make it hard to get a mortgage at the moment. The rental part of the payment is eligible for Housing Benefit.

Cutting fuel bills

Because climate change and the increasing cost of oil and other fossil fuels will seriously affect everyone, we are keen to work in an environmentally sustainable way to cut people’s fuel bills.

Anyone can do it – with a year’s hard work

Anyone can do this – as long as they are willing to work very hard for year, building in their spare time, fitting it in around work and family commitments. The house is designed specifically for self build, keeping every aspect as simple as possible. Two people are needed to work on each house to support one another.

Building together to make it happen

Each development will usually be between six and 12 houses. We anticipate groups working together on walls and roofs to get to the weather-tight stage. Then you will work more individually on the internal fitting and finishing. To help ensure everyone works together, the materials for the next phase will not be delivered until everyone has finished the previous phase to an acceptable standard. This means being willing to help each other out to get the job done.

Small developments with space around

So that you have space for allotments and possibly orchards or a pond, we aim to build about six to eight houses per acre, which is fewer than a traditional developer would pack in. We also do not prioritise tarmac roads and pavements, instead having a car park on the edge of the site and paths to the houses where possible.

Bespoke training course to learn what you need

You will attend a bespoke evening class at a local college one evening a week for a year to learn how to build this house. We assume you have no previous experience (although those who do are very welcome!) You will build as you learn and we will deliver to site all the materials you need. There will be inspections roughly every month to ensure that you are completing the work to the required standard. No materials will be delivered for the next stage until everyone has completed the previous one. Qualified plumbers and electricians will complete and test the installations.

Community helps identify cheaper land

Because the self build scheme is providing ‘affordable housing’, it is possible to buy land in rural areas for which open market housing developers will not be able to obtain planning consent. Hence these ‘Rural Exception Sites’ cost less to buy. It is often worth local landowners or farmers selling to the CLT because they obtain a value several times higher than agricultural rate. As you are local you might be in a good position to talk to your local farmers and landowners about the benefits of the scheme. You can encourage them to consider selling a corner of a field or small plot that needs to be next to the existing village or town with reasonable road access. Once a potential plot has been identified, the Land Society will assist with the negotiations and the legal agreements.

Community ownership ensures permanent affordability

It is important the houses are always going to be available for local people in housing need. So we can help you set up a Community Land Trust (CLT) to own the freehold and part of the equity in each house. Community Land Trusts are powerful examples of communities taking control and transforming the future of their local community. They are non-profit, community-based organisations run by volunteers that develop housing, workspaces, community facilities or other assets that meet the needs of the community, are owned and controlled by the community and are made available at permanently affordable levels. You can find more information about what CLTs do here:

Affordable housing crucial

Working and learning together for a year means that the group is a strong community from the outset. Also they have gained a lot of useful skills and confidence to do on and do more. They could build more facilities for the community like a shop or a creche or they might take up the opportunity to set up a business. On average, people who have built there own home live in it for far longer than people have bought a house. So the self builders can make a significant contribution to a strong vibrant local community.

No need for subsidy from developers or the government

The self build affordable housing scheme is self funding. With the eventual owners providing their labour for free there is no need for subsidy either from the government or as part of a larger open market development. This is important because funding to provide social housing is being cut. So called ‘affordable’ rents for social housing are going to increase, and the mortgage repayments or rental payments on a shared equity self build home will usually be less.

Open market development also possible

On some sites e.g. Plymouth and Buckfastleigh, we will be able to offer open-market plots too. Many people who own their own home or are in a shared-equity home will not qualify for the Affordable projects, but still need a good family home. Our open market serviced plots will be ready to build, and we arrange with the land-owner to sell them at open-market value (the landowner receives this money for their land). Open-market self builders can still join in the rest of the scheme; go to the training course, use our eco-house designs, build with the community over 12 months (part-time), and be part of the celebrations when everyone's completed their home!