Common Ground Trust

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= proposed by George Monbiot, in his report for the Labour Party of the UK, "Land for the Many"


George Monbiot:

"The Common Ground Trust (Trust hereafter) is proposed as a publicly-backed but independent non-profit institution which would buy the land beneath houses and lease it to members. The Trust would take the form of a commons, where the land is controlled by a community of members, working within a constitutional framework.

People (including housing co-ops) could approach the Trust when they had found a house they wanted to buy and ask the Trust to purchase the land. They would then purchase only the bricks and mortar. Since bricks and mortar account for 30% of the price of a property on average, this would allow people to put down much lower deposits and take on much lower mortgage debt than is currently the case, particularly in high land value areas. The new buyers would sign a lease that would make them members of the Trust, and entitle them to exclusive use of the land in return for paying a land rent.

When moving house, members would sell their bricks and mortar, while the Common Ground Trust would retain the title to the land.

Although the Trust would be non-profit, it would aim to accrue a surplus which would be pooled and used to fund a Rainy Days and Retirement Discount for members. This would help to improve the attractiveness of the scheme, compared to both renting and the mainstream model of mortgaged home ownership, as it would improve security of tenure for members who had fallen on hard times, or were unable to work any longer.

The Trust does not replace the need for social housing. It serves an entirely distinct purpose.

The Trust is a vehicle for bringing land into common ownership, with three goals in mind:

  • To expand the number of people ready and able to buy a house, offsetting the reduced demand from landlords and speculators. This would make it safe to introduce the necessary reforms to the private rented sector, the tax system and the mortgage market discussed in the previous chapter, so that land and house prices can be stabilised.
  • To reduce the scale of land rents that are extracted by financiers and landlords, and to use those rents instead to provide a safety net for members who have hit hard times.
  • To give more people the opportunity to enjoy a form of private or mutual home ownership. Even with improved conditions in the private rented sector, many people will have an understandable desire for a home they can substantially renovate and invest in, and the assurance that they will never receive an eviction notice."