Jessie and George’s story: Affordable people-powered housing

London-based artists Jessie and George wanted to find an affordable property that they could treat as a home, not just an investment. Given the pressures of London’s inflated housing market, it was a challenge for them to find somewhere suitable, their options eventually becoming limited to the city’s outskirts. Keen to return to their community in the heart of London, they decided to look beyond the confines of the mainstream housing market. Their search led them to the London Community Land Trust (London CLT) St. Clements housing project – and to Ecology.

St. Clements in Mile End was originally a Victorian workhouse and, later, a mental health hospital. After the closure of the hospital in 2005, the site’s owner – the Greater London Authority (GLA) – proposed to sell it to a private developer. The intended development would consist of houses far beyond the financial reach of most local residents.

Determined that the site be used to benefit the local community, Citizens UK campaigned alongside London CLT – a not-for-profit grassroots organisation established to provide permanently affordable homes for local residents. Following a protracted campaign, it was agreed that the St. Clements development would include 23 affordable homes, which would be placed under the management of the CLT and sold to local Tower Hamlets residents at a fraction of the market value. The prices of the properties are pegged to average local income rather than open market value, and must remain fixed at this ratio if ever they are re-sold.

Jessie and George were able to move into their new St. Clements home following confirmation that they had met the eligibility criteria. These include participation within the local community and a minimum of five years’ connection to Tower Hamlets. Applicants must also show that they have been priced out of the locality’s open housing market but are able to afford a home within the CLT scheme.

The pair purchased their home with a mortgage from Ecology, which, at the time, was the only mortgage lender prepared to support such a pioneering housing scheme and developed an innovative mortgage solution that would meet the St. Clements residents’ needs. Ecology has long supported community-led housing initiatives on the basis that they offer affordable, sustainable housing that empowers local communities.

Once concerned that they would be priced out of their local area, Jessie and George now have a home that’s close to work and friends. George comments,

“For me the key difference between buying a CLT property and buying a normal property on the open market is that you are buying an affordable home rather than a speculative venture.”

Ecology is continuing to work with CLTs across the UK to replicate the success of St. Clements, enabling more community-led groups to create permanently affordable homes for local people.

Find out more about Ecology’s community-led housing mortgages.