FEARS that affordable housing for ‘local people’ in Lyme Regis could be lost due to the rented tenant’s Right to Acquire scheme have been highlighted in a presentation set to go before the town council.
An updated report and presentation was heard by town councillors at a meeting on July 23 by the proposed Community Land Trust (CLT) in Lyme – which would hold land in trust for the community and offer the buyer the possibility of sharing in the equity of the property, although the trust would retain freehold of the land.
The leaseholder could be an individual or a housing association but the CLT would have control over who lives there.
In 2012, there was renewed momentum to create a CLT in the town after figures released showed that Lyme has some of the highest seaside house prices in the country – the average house price is £373,841.
Denis Yell, Keith Jenkin, Ray Smith and Keith Shaw set out to explore whether a CLT would work in 2012 and the town council gave its backing in March, 2013.
The CLT aims to give a lifeline to Lyme residents who have never been able to afford their own home and tackle the shortage of affordable housing in the town.
The update report by Mr Yell says: “We understood initially that affordable homes in Lyme Regis could be built on exception sites with no recourse for tenants under Right to Acquire.
“However, we became aware during research in 2013 that Lyme Regis is not a ‘protected rural parish’.
“This means that tenants of rented homes would have the right to acquire their homes, and that leaseholders of shared ownership homes would have the right to ‘staircase’ up to 100 per cent ownership, – buy portions of equity until they buy the freehold.
“West Dorset District Council applied for Lyme to become a protected parish but the application was declined because the population of Lyme is too high in terms of absolute numbers and density per hectare.”
All four CLT members have lived in the town for several years but are keen for long-term local residents with an interest in the housing crisis to join them.
The group’s initial ideas have received support from West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin, the regional CLT network, the town and district councils and local area partnership Lyme Forward.
Last year, the town council agreed to become the ‘constitutional custodian’ of any future land trust.
Councillor Lucy Campbell said it would be ‘quite appropriate’ for the council to take the role and Cllr Rikey Austin highlighted the need for affordable rented housing in the town.
Councillors were keen that any houses built under the CLT should be for affordable rent and not sold – and made available only to ‘local people’.
Mr Yell’s updated report adds: “West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin advised that the probability of rented homes being lost through the Right to Acquire is ‘very small’ because of the discounts involved.
“The CLT proposes to follow the advice of Mr Letwin to press on with plans and accept the risk of such losses.
“This would allow us to keep moving forward with the best interests of the community at the forefront.”
Any recommendations from the council meeting on July 23 will then be considered by full council on August 6.