Residents are being urged to take advantage of a scheme to create affordable housing in their area by Chichester District Council as part of Rural Housing Week.
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are sites bought by a group of individuals for development as rented accommodation.
Trustees can set conditions as who can live in the houses, ensuring homes for those with a connection to the area.
Cllr Susan Taylor, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning at Chichester District Council, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for communities to take control and build a strong future for the next generation.
“Many people from rural areas across Chichester District are finding it difficult to live in rural areas because of a lack of affordable homes.
“The main reasons are high house prices combined with comparatively low wages which make it hard for people to stay in their village, even though they may have grown up there.”
The council has confirmed CLTs will count towards housing quotas in the district and the scheme applies to unused buildings and finished developments as well as land.
Would-be trustees apply for a private loan or grant to buy the land and the homes remain the property of the trust with rents put back into the trust. The not-for-profit organisation can set rents lower than market rate and initial costs can be cut if landowners sell sites for less to a communal group.
Cllr Taylor said she was concerned at the low turnover of affordable homes in the district, particularly in rural areas.
“If young people are going to move out, we are going to become just empty villages,” she said. “You need diversity in the village, you need life in the village, otherwise the village dies.”
She added that those who grew up in a rural community were likely to continue contributing to the village and that she was ‘pleasantly surprised’ at parish councils’ interest in the project so far.
The scheme has been running for many years, with 170 CLTs nationwide.
A step-by-step guide on how to set up a CLT, advice and funding options including grants can be found in the council’s offices or online at www.chichester.gov.uk/housing.