Innovative scheme to provide affordable housing in three South Downs villages

Members of the START board with Gillian Keegan MP
Members of the START board with Gillian Keegan MP

For many young people who grow up in rural South Downs villages, staying to work and have a family is not an option because of the high cost of accommodation.

But a group of residents from the villages of Rogate, Stedham and Trotton and its satellite hamlets have come up with an innovative solution to help address the problem.

They have banded together to form START, a community land trust, which aims to provide small sites of genuinely affordable housing, based on what people earn in the area, reserved for local people.

A non-profit organisation, START is run by volunteers from the area, with membership open to all residents.

Mairi Rennie, a councillor on Rogate Parish Council and the secretary of START, said: “In a place like the national park there’s very little affordable housing.

“Increasingly young people move away, and the village begins to die.”

For those who do decide to stay, she said: “Young people have to work so hard to afford the rents if they rent privately.”

START, which is made up of a board of six members from across the three villages, currently has around half a dozen sites for housing in mind, said Mairi.

She admitted that securing land would be ‘difficult and expensive’ but said there could be ways of purchasing sites for a reduced amount or to make use of brownfield sites.

The land it secures will be owned by the trust forever, and rented or leased to people who meet its allocation policy.

But Mairi said it could take as long as five years to get to that stage.

For now, the group is reaching out to the community and trying to get as many people to join the trust as a voting member for as little as £1.

“The hope is that because people know its for the good of the village, they are more likely to agree to go ahead with it,” Mairi said.

Members of the community trust will be speaking to residents about the project at the Sussex Day open day event at Rogate village hall on Sunday.

Mairi said of the scheme: “It is entirely altruistic. We want to do something good for the community.”

Find out more by visiting start-ct.org.uk

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