LYME residents who have never been able to afford their own home could soon be given a lifeline.
A new group has been set up to tackle the shortage of affordable housing in Lyme Regis, especially for young people.
A public meeting is being held on Monday, March 11 at 7.30pm in the Woodmead Halls for the community to find out more about the concept of a Community Land Trust (CLT).
This is a community led group that would take freehold ownership of suitable sites in perpetuity and either the CLT would build the homes itself or lease the land to a housing association.
Denis Yell, Keith Jenkin, Ray Smith, and Keith Shaw were tasked last year to explore whether a CLT would work in Lyme Regis.
All four have lived in the town for several years but are keen for long term local residents with an interest in the housing crisis to join them.
The group's initial ideas have received support from West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin, the regional CLT network, the town and district councils, and local area partnership Lyme Forward.
Mr Yell said despite 'strenuous' efforts over several years, the problems in Lyme Regis have become worse rather than better.
He said: “Since 2008, Lyme Forward has been carrying out detailed studies to seek solutions, but the rules concerning development land allocation anywhere but in very small communities made useful progress difficult.
“Only 23 affordable houses have been built in the town since 2000, against a predicted need of over 100 dwellings in the period 2008-2011 alone.”
Mr Yell said the recent focus on localism has led to changes in the planning options for small towns, together with a national interest in CLTs.
Mr Yell said: “The starting point for any affordable housing scheme has to be the acquisition of suitable land at low or nil cost.
“Once the land is acquired it must then be managed and protected to ensure it remains available for such housing in perpetuity.”
The CLT would have the power to influence the type of any housing built and the definition of 'local' people who would live there.
Mr Yell said: “The fundamental premise for a CLT is that it is established by the community solely for the benefit of the community.”
The group hopes to formally establish the CLT as soon as possible, with the priority of identifying philanthropic or public owners of sites within or next to the town.
But Mr Yell warned that a great deal of effort is needed to drive the idea forward. “It will require a great deal of hard work and patience,” he said.
“However, the existing group already has widespread support and will welcome help from anyone in the community who would like to become a member of the CLT.”
The team is keen to hear from people at the public meeting who would like to become tenants or owners of the proposed housing.
All are welcome to attend and admission is free.