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Mar 21

Transition Homes Community Land Trust: Sustainable to the core

Community housing

You hear a lot about environmental sustainability in relation to community-led housing projects, and rightly so. But you know they mean business when they tell you they are putting compost toilets in as standard.

At Transition Homes in Dartington, that’s not the only challenge they’ve taken on. Affordability is central to their plans, and in an area where house prices are 14 times the local average salary, it’s easy to see why.

The Transition Homes plan: an ‘inspiring, replicable, low impact, resilient community of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and affordable homes’

Transition Homes Totnes

Clear about their vision, local people formed a CLT in 2011 and by 2014 they had bought a sloping, seven acre field thanks to a private loan and masses of vision. Notwithstanding the substantial barriers ahead of them, they set to work on their plan to build 19 affordable rent/shared ownership homes while another eight will be sold off to cross subside the rest.

The vision involves a straw bale and timber frame construction with substantial insulation. There will also be an area for food growing, a coppice for heating and the use of local, natural materials to complete a development that will also restrict car usage to a minimum.

They have already raised £120,000 in development funds including £35,000 from the government’s Community Buildings programme and things are moving forward. Due to the high sums involved in completing the project, £5.5 million, they are developing in phases, using funds from sales of houses in the first phase to help pay for the second. Even then, they will still need to find £3m over and above a planned £1.5m loan.

It’s this kind of funding headache that taxes people to the limit, but not this group. Talk to them for 10 minutes and it seems so clear that they will succeed. ‘Persistence and tenacity’ – that’s the advice they give to other people and ‘Get the word out there’.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
(That one courtesy of Nelson Mandela of course.)

The 130 people on their waiting list believe in them too, and along with everyone else on the local affordable housing waiting lists, they are standing by in the hope of being allocated a new home via the selection process agreed with South Hams as part of the site planning conditions.

Until then, it’s back to raising funds, to pushing the process along, to staying sustainable. Keep watching this space and expect great things to happen. I will be.

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