Blog authored by Tom Chance, Director, National CLT Network
You can't have a conference on a Friday, half the people will slip off to the pub in the afternoon." So I was warned. But come 5.30pm we still had a packed room at London's City Hall, the sun streaming in and buzzing energy flowing throughout. On the 10th May, we hosted the second transnational conference for SHICC, a project to grow the CLT movement across North West Europe.
Delegates from England, Wales, Scotland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Spain came together to talk about land, finance, climate breakdown, regeneration, the local economy, and sector infrastructure. Did we miss anything?
The overarching theme was what we call 'a new kind of municipalism'. Rural district councils have long seen the benefits of community led housing, like Cornwall, West Dorset, East Cambridgeshire and Northumberland. Now we're seeing urban councils like Croydon, Birmingham and York embrace the idea that councils are more powerful when working in partnership with communities.
On the continent, CLT Brussels and the CLT movement in France have only come about thanks to strong municipal support, and our friends in Gent are working hard to win city authorities over to their vision. One in six councils in England now have policies to support CLTs. I hope that grows to half of all councils in the next year or two.
James Murray, the Deputy Mayor of London for housing and planning, is one of our most prominent supporters. Opening the conference, he described City Hall's ambition to build a pipeline of 1,000 community led homes by 2021, supported by funding for the London Enabler Hub, a dedicated Community Housing Fund and the release of small publicly owned sites ringfenced for CLTs.
In our closing plenary, we heard about similar policies from Cllr Paul Smith from Bristol City Council, and of the pledges made by Brighton & Hove cllrs during the recent elections following a hustings organised by the CLT. If your council isn't supporting you yet, have a look at our local advocacy toolkit published this spring.
While delegates were enjoying a smoothly run day, I could see the team chatter on WhapsApp buzzing away all day. The National CLT Network has grown in recent years from two to twelve staff, and I couldn't be happier to work with such a friendly and committed bunch of people, not to mention the inspiration I draw from meeting everyone behind CLTs up and down the country.
The conference was born of teamwork, a shared vision. I'm particularly proud that, with their hard work, panels had as many women as men, and equal weight was given to voices from community, government, and industry. We still need to get better at ethnic diversity. But the rest of the housing industry could learn a lot from us.
My mind has already turned to 2020, and the idea of another big national conference. We've not had one since 2017. What sort of event should it be? Send us your ideas...