EcoHOLMEs FAQ

1. Who are EcoHOLMEs?

EcoHOLMEs is a community business for the purpose of providing the affordable low-energy homes that our Holme Valley community urgently needs, and that are fit for the future.

EcoHOLMEs is a Community Land Trust (CLT) set up by local people to build and own homes for the long term benefit of the Holme Valley community. The homes built will be allocated to local people, and will also serve as exemplars of low carbon living.

EcoHOLMEs is a local, independent and not-for-profit charitable organisation registered as a Community Benefit Society (CBS); a community business specially created for the purpose of building affordable low-energy homes  for our community.

EcoHOLMEs will build affordable homes for rent to local people based on housing need, providing long term secure and stable accommodation.

EcoHOLMEs will build low-energy homes, fit for the future that are energy efficient and cheap to run.

EcoHOLMEs will build sustainable homes that are Climate Emergency exemplars for low-carbon living.

EcoHOLMEs is run by a Management Board, whose Directors will be elected by its Members from the local Holme Valley community.

EcoHOLMEs will ensure key decisions on our new homes are made by the community, for the community.

EcoHOLMEs is the trading name of the Holme Valley Community Land Trust Limited, a Community Benefit Society incorporated under the Cooperative and Community Benefit Society Act 2014, and  registered  with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with registration number 8289. Our Rules (our governing document or constitution) can be read or downloaded here

2 Why affordable low-energy homes?

There is a pressing shortage of low-cost affordable housing in the Holme Valley, both for sale and for rent.  There is also a growing realisation that we need for more low-energy housing, as we move to a more sustainable lifestyle as part of our response to the Climate Emergency.

Residents in the Holme Valley clearly wish to see more affordable housing – this was the overwhelming message from 72% of local respondents in the 2017 public consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan (NDP).  Residents are also concerned about the impacts of Climate Change and there has been overwhelming support for the recent declaration of a Climate Emergency by the Holmfirth Parish Council and its Action Plan.

The homes built by EcoHOLMEs will be allocated to local people on the basis of housing need, on the basis of an open and transparent allocations policy.

EcoHOLMEs will ensure key decisions on our new homes are made by the community, for the community,  in order to provide affordable low energy homes we  need that are fit for the future.

3 What is affordable housing?

There is no all-encompassing statutory definition of affordable housing in England. Indeed, there is a good deal of ambiguity in the way the term ‘affordable’ is used in relation to housing. Aside from covering housing provided with public subsidy, it is used in a general way to describe housing of any tenure that is judged to be affordable to a particular household or group by analysis of housing costs, income levels and other factors.

However, affordable housing has been generally considered to be housing at less than 80% of market value and is needed to help those people who are unable to get into the normal housing market.

From government data, typical mean affordable housing rents in Yorks & the Humber area are £96 per week which is 28% of the mean income of £340 per week.

4 What is low energy housing?

Current new-build houses are built to the 2013 Part L building regulations standard, which is now considered inadequate, especially with the need to decarbonise housing under Climate Change legislation.  A new government Future Homes building standard is planned for 2025 and is expected to set a much higher standard for energy-efficient housing, to provide low energy homes fit for the future.

New-build houses can be made more energy efficient, though selection of building materials, insulation, and leak tightness measures, such that the building fabric energy losses are minimised, heat is recovered via controlled fresh air changes and local renewable energy is generated.  However, such homes cost more to build, and private developers are not keen to spend more than they need.

High energy efficiency housing models, such as the Passivhaus standard, are often zero energy or ultra-low energy (ULE) homes where heat energy losses are minimal due high standards of thermal insulation and air tightness.  Albeit such low energy house construction may cost 10% to 20% more to build, they have very low annual running costs, leading to even more benefits for younger lower-earning residents.

The greater challenge in providing homes for the future, is to retrofit existing housing stock with the needed energy efficiency measures. The staggering fact is that, of the UK’s housing requirements for 2050, some 80% of these homes are already built – we have one of the oldest housing stocks in Europe. In Kirklees, 20% of homes are older than 100 years, 80% older than 30 years. The Enerphit standard is similar to Passivhaus but adapted to retrofitting for these older homes

5 How will we provide homes that are both affordable and fit for the future?

The EcoHOLMEs business model is based on making houses affordable through savings in land acquisition and savings in developer profits – these savings will help to deliver affordability and offset energy-efficient design.

We plan to acquire land for our affordable housing sites by:

  • purchase – on open market,
  • transfers – asset transfer of land or property from the local authority,
  • donations – land or property that is gifted or donated to the community,
  • leasing – long term leases.

As a community-led business, we are also able to seek planning permission for sites where not available for commercial housing development!

For funding the development and build costs, we expect to access:

  • housing grants and others funding sources,
  • commercial business loans,
  • community share funding from our membership.

For new-build homes, EcoHOLMEs will adopt low-energy design principles that cover continuous thermal super-insulation, air tightness barriers, high performance windows and doors, mechanical ventilation (with heat recovery) and solar gain/loss (passive solar with shading).

For retro-fitting existing properties which are hard to treat, similar principles will be applied where practical, with on-site renewable energy to offset heating losses.

6 What is Community-led housing (CLH)?

Community-led housing is about meeting the housing needs of your community, by acquiring land and holding it as a community asset in perpetuity.

Most community-led housing has five main features:

  • It is often small scale – in rural areas, most schemes are under 20/25 homes and some are smaller; in urban areas some much larger schemes are now being promoted and delivered
  • Schemes are usually set up and run by local people in their own communities, often with external support from housing associations, local authorities or regional and national support organisations
  • It provides genuinely affordable homes for rent, shared ownership or sale on sites that are often difficult for mainstream housing providers to develop
  • Schemes meet long-term local housing needs, by the community retaining a legal and/or financial interest in the homes provided and ensuring they are always available to local people who need them
  • Community-led housing is not-for-profit, involving considerable voluntary effort

Having said that, some community-led housing schemes are based around groups of people coming together to foster community living and these may not require subsidy, meet local housing needs or be not-for-profit.

Community-led housing comes in many different forms – there are no standard, off-the-shelf approaches, but they can include:

  • Community Land Trusts (CLT) provide affordable homes for local people in need – for rent or shared ownership – by acquiring land and holding it as a community asset in perpetuity
  • Housing Co-operatives involve groups of people who provide and collectively manage, on a democratic membership basis, affordable homes for themselves as tenants or shared owners
  • Cohousing schemes involve groups of like-minded people who come together to provide self-contained, private homes for themselves, but manage their scheme together and share activities, often in a communal space
  • Tenant management organisations provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining the homes through an agreement with their council or housing association landlord
  • Self-help housing projects involve small, community-based organisations bringing empty properties back into use, often without mainstream funding and with a strong emphasis on construction skills training and support
  • Community self-build schemes involve groups of local people in housing need building homes for themselves with external support and managing the process collectively. Individual self-build is not widely regarded as community-led housing.
  • Community development trusts and community ‘anchors’ are independent, often well-established community-led organisations operating in a local area. They are focused on a range of economic, social and environmental issues; some are now involved in community-led housing provision.
7 What is a Community Land Trust (CLT)?

Community Land Trusts are set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets important to that community, like community enterprises, food growing or that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area, not just workspaces. CLTs are not-for-for profit corporations and act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring for now but for every future occupier.

They are relatively new idea started in the USA, and now there are some 263 legally incorporated CLTs in England and Wales and,  including new groups forming, the number is now over 300

There have been 935 CLT homes have been built to date in the UK, with more than 16,000 community led homes in the pipeline, with over 17,000 people now members of CLTs.

CLTs are not a legal form in themselves (like a Company). However, CLTs are defined in law so there are certain things that a CLT must be and do:

  • A CLT must be set up to benefit a defined community;
  • A CLT must be not-for-private-profit.  This means that they can, and should, make a surplus as a community business, but that surplus must be used to benefit the community;
  • Local people living and working in the community must have the opportunity to join the CLT as members;
  • Those members control the CLT (usually through a management board being elected from the membership).

CLTs have to take on a legal form that works for them, such as a Community Benefit Society (CBS or BenCom) or a Cooperative

8 What is a Community Benefit Society (CBS)?

A Community Benefit Society is run primarily for the benefit of the community at large, rather than just for members of the society. This means that it must have an overarching community purpose that reaches beyond its membership. An applicant enterprise must also have a special reason for being a community benefit society rather than a company, such as wanting to have democratic decision-making built into its structure. They are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rather than Companies House.

A community benefit society has the power to raise funds from its member as shares and to pay interest on members’ share capital. However, it cannot distribute surpluses to members in the form of dividends. Voting rights are based on one member one vote, rather than on members share capital.

A community benefit society can opt to have a statutory asset lock, which has the same strength as the asset lock for a charity and for a community interest company. This type of asset lock is not currently available for co-operatives.

A charitable Community Benefit Society must have exclusively charitable objects. This means that a charitable community benefit society that intends to engage in trading activities that are neither in pursuit of its primary purpose nor ancillary to that purpose, may have to establish a trading subsidiary to carry out this trade. It must also have an asset lock. This must take the form of a rule stating that if the society is dissolved, any residual assets must be transferred to another charity with the same or similar charitable purposes.

They are suited to Community-led Housing projects; many CLT’s in the UK are set up as Community Benefit Societies