Community Land Trust Brussels wins World Habitat Award

VUB experts study and guide global development of community land trusts for affordable housing

Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB) has won the World Habitat Awards 2021, presented by World Habitat in partnership with UN Habitat. The award recognises and highlights innovative and revolutionary housing ideas, projects and programmes from around the world. CLTB, founded by Vrije Universiteit Brussel researcher Thomas Dawance among others, is committed to affordable housing in the Brussels Capital Region. A collective of scientists from VUB is actively studying and supporting the global and European development of community land trusts.

Rising property prices and a lack of social housing have created a crisis of affordable housing in Brussels, leaving people with the lowest incomes with little choice but to rent low-quality housing or to leave the city. To tackle the problem, Community Land Trust Brussels is successfully developing affordable housing on land owned by the community and selling the homes for 20-50% below market value. The cost of the housing is subsidised according to the household’s ability to pay. This gives underprivileged households, the vast majority of which (83%) have a migrant background, the opportunity to buy an affordable and high-quality home and to have a say in the purchase. Indeed, CLTB gives buyers a say in its policy, meaning they play a central role in both the management of the organisation and the design and management of the housing projects. Both residents and non-residents have the opportunity to participate in a close-knit and caring community.

VUB researchers at the helm

VUB’s Cosmopolis research centre (Centre for Urban Research) is closely studying the development of community land trusts in Brussels, Belgium, Europe and the rest of the world. Several researchers are doing or have done a PhD on the subject. With this expertise, some of these VUB researchers were asked to assist CLTB in setting up a new community land trust in Leuven, an initiative of Leuven City Council and the city government. With the Department of Education Sciences, they are also assisting CALICO (Care & Living in Community), a collective housing project by CLTB, funded by the European Commission’s Urban Innovative Actions programme. CALICO involves the construction of 34 houses in Brussels through an innovative partnership with housing cooperatives and non-profit organisations active in the fields of community care and gender mainstreaming.

Within the university, a real pool of expertise on the subject is gradually emerging.