Five years ago, some of us heard about an interesting model in the United States that considers
the land as a common good and guarantees its accessibility to the community. Land accessibility was a growing issue in Brussels. We decided to take a plain and cross the Atlantic to discover more about it. There we met John Davis, writer, researcher, community organizer and strong believer and promoter of the Community Land Trust model. His ideas and thoughts intrigued and motivated us so when we came back to Brussels we were ready to take our direction. John continued to support us over the years and his advice helped us build the Brussels CLT.
Last Wednesday,we welcomed John Davis in Brussels for the second time. He presented the first French book on the subject, the Manuel d’antispéculation immobilière. The launch of the book has been an opportunity to gather CLT initiators from all over Europe and put the bases for the development of a shared European dimension.
As the Housing Minister of the Brussels-Capital Region, Céline Fremault, remarked in her introductory speech last Wednesday, the Community Land Trust is a reality in Brussels, recognized in the regional legal framework and recently appointed for the construction of 120 houses within 2018.
The unexpected participation of more than 150 people – local community members, as well as public institutions, European organizations and partners from France, Italy and Switzerland – showed that there is a fertile ground for the development of a larger movement. However, even if the concept is already planting its roots in some European countries, can this unusual housing model offer an effective antidote to the virus of housing speculation affecting the European market and be a defender of the right of housing constantly under threat?
The outcome from the last Wednesday discussion seemed clear and promising:
“At the EU level, there is still a strong believe in the market which we have seen destroying people lives due to a lack of regulations and the weakening of public institutions. The key is to insure that local organizations [like CLT] working on the ground are strengthened so that they can be effective.” said Sorcha Edwards, Secretary General Housing Europe, the European federation representing social housing in Europe, and continued “there is floor for these sort of initiatives at the European level and this exchange of ideas together with the political will are crucial nowadays in Europe”.
Emphasizing on issues like the protection of the land against speculation, community development and permanently affordable housing, the CLT model can play a promising role in the next years in Europe. The CLT model is not able, neither intentioned, to replace existing housing models. It is rather “a complementary tool to traditional forms of social housing” said Charlotte Boulanger from the Fonds Mondial du Développement des Villes. “The CLT has a place in Europe because it answers to the actual needs of the urban area”.
The CLT model is not just a nice theory coming from the other part of theAtlantic, but rather a concept that, if supported by different actors, like political institutions, local associations or private actors, can make a difference in bringing sustainable solutions to the housing crisis in urban areas in Europe.
There is no doubt that Wednesday evening was an important step towards a European CLT movement. Build on the roots of our predecessor an opportunity to take new innovative directions is the power of the CLT model:
“I could not be more pleased that the seeds have somehow blown across the Atlantic and the Pacific and taking roots in other countries. Primarily because this is a very flexible model, it is malleable. Every time we have gone in new directions and we have adopted some new practices and procedures, it is because some CLT was very brave and very innovative […]. I think what is happening in Europe, in Australia and in England is that the model will take on a few new elements. It is going to be applied in a slightly different way but that it is nothing more than an opportunity for us [in the United States] to steel ideas and come back across” said John Davis.
read the full interview with John Davis
read the full speech of the Housing Minister of the Brussels-Capital Region.