Walterton and Elgin Community Homes
Tenant-controlled housing estate emerged from the struggle of residents against the sale of their homes to private developers.
Walterton and Elgin Community Homes started as a campaign to save the council estates in Westminster from being knocked down and sold off to a developer. This was 1986, after residents discovered that Westminster Council had secretly drawn up a plan to sell the Walterton estate to private developers who would demolish it.
As the campaign developed, people became disenchanted with Westminster Council and the way it was behaving. The opportunity came to transfer the estates away from the council. “Once you’ve had your landlord do something really nasty to you, you only really trust yourself,” says Jonathan Rosenberg, the founder of Walterton and Elgin Community Homes.
The group set up to take advantage of the right to acquire legislation, called Tenants’ Choice, that came into force in 1989. In 1992, after a long campaign, the estates were transferred to community ownership.
More recently, Walterton and Elgin Community Homes has embarked on a major scheme to build an additional 43 homes for rent. The scheme received planning permission from Westminster City Council on May 2016 and has assembled funding to complete the scheme from the Affordable Housing Fund, the Community Land Fund and the Mayor of London’s Housing Covenant Programme, plus a loan from the Charity and Unity Trust Banks. The works have been carried out in phases, with a new community centre, nursery and office block on Elgin Avenue finished in January, followed by completion of the residential parts of the scheme in July 2019.
“The justice of the cause was always what kept it going,” Rosenburg says. “The objective of a community winning control and ownership over their land and their future.”
New rules needed
Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.
Create a Common Ground Trust
Buying land from underneath houses and leasing it to members will expand the number of people ready to buy a house.
Introduce an NHS land community-lock
Any land asset sold by the NHS through choice, necessity or obligation should be used for community benefit.
Tax unfair landowner gains
Redistribute unfair gains which landowners derive through public investment and land value increases.
Insulate and solarise our homes
UK homes are some of the most expensive to heat in Europe. We can reduce emissions and fuel poverty.
Reform compulsory purchase laws
Changes would mean that public authorities, rather than landowners, would capture the uplift in land value.
Start an English Land Commission
Commission will design a strategy for a fairer, more inclusive system of land and land ownership.
Create a Public Land Bank
End the fire sale public land and instead use surplus land to form the basis for a Public Land Bank.
Create a Land Development Corporation
A corporation with the power to purchase, develop and sell land can ensure it is managed in the public interest.
Close the viability loophole
Stop private developers from evading affordable housing requirements.