New Community Share Offer to build affordable homes in Oxford goes live


New Community Share Offer to build affordable homes in Oxford goes live
New Community Share Offer to build affordable homes in Oxford goes live. Image: Timber frame being installed at Croft’s Court

A new Community Share Offer has today opened to help deliver affordable rented apartments in Botley, West Oxford.

The initiative is being led by Oxfordshire Community Land Trust (OCLT), who are building eight apartments at Crofts Court, where a lack of affordable rental housing is causing difficulties for key workers and local people to find suitable homes.

The OCLT Community Share Offer is offering socially-motivated investors the opportunity to be part of this pioneering affordable community-housing development. The offer is available through Ethex, the UK’s leading positive investment platform.

Shares are offered at a value of £1 each and are offered in multiples of £250. The minimum shareholding is £250, and the maximum is £50,000. The Community Shares carry a target maximum interest rate of 3%.

Alongside generous grant funding from the Vale of White Horse District Council and the Oxfordshire Futures Partnership, the development will be part-funded by a mortgage from the Ecology Building Society.

However, increasing variable interest rates are putting the project’s delivery at risk, so OCLT is looking to replace part of the Ecology mortgage with more affordable finance from social investors. The mainly volunteer-run organisation started building the scheme in May 2022, and it’s scheduled for completion by June 2023.

The site known as Crofts Court will be sustainably built, with high levels of insulation, clean energy generated from roof-top solar panels to reduce energy bills, and permeable landscaping to minimise water run-off.

The development is also unique in that it will require prospective tenants (who are expected to have a strong local connection) to join a tenant management cooperative to help manage and run the building.

This should create a solid residential community and enable the tenants to develop meaningful employment skills provided through OCLT’s tenant training scheme.

Oxford is ranked as the second least affordable city in Britain, and, as a result, local people, key workers and those who sustain it are being priced out.

At the same time, Oxford, with its universities, industry and diverse communities, remains one of the world’s most renowned cities for original thought and innovation, with a track record of problem-solving and trying out new ideas.

Trust Director and social investor Vyvyan Salmon: “Community Share Offers are unique in that they allow sympathetic individuals and organisations to support valuable projects, and in return not only do they receive a social return on investment but target a financial one too”.

Trust Director Alison Mathias: “Whilst our scheme is small, this is just the start and showcases an innovative way to help address the local housing crisis.

“By investing in our development, people and organisations can help us grow so that we can bring more affordable homes to other neighbourhoods in Oxfordshire.

“The critical element of our development is that OCLT will never choose to sell the homes, so they will remain at affordable rents forever for the people who need them”.

Lisa Ashford, CEO, Ethex: “We’re really pleased to be working with OCLT. There is a pressing social need for affordable housing in Oxford and other cities around the country and community ownership is a great long-term solution for meeting housing needs.”

OCLT is a Community Benefit Society (previously known as an Industrial and Provident Society). Its mission is to hold land in trust to provide permanently affordable homes across the county of Oxfordshire.

The development would not have been possible without funding and support from the Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxfordshire Growth Board, Homes England, Low Carbon Hub, the Ecology Building Society, The Community Housing Fund Revenue Programme 2021/22 (funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), and the public who have become members of OCLT. OCLT is also supported by professional services from Soha Housing RP.

More information on the trust’s work can be found at https://www.oclt.org.uk/ and the Share Offer at www.oclt.org.uk/crofts-court. To invest, please go to www.ethex.org.uk/invest/OCLT.

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