Source: Granby Four Streets CLT

Participate to innovate - building affordable homes collaboratively

All too often aspiring homeowners find themselves funnelled into a competitive marketplace for highly priced properties with little direction towards alternative ways of meeting their housing needs. Community-led housing is an emerging field of new practices, one that focuses on building affordable homes through a process that puts local people in control. Building collaboration is the first step and this starts with a shared conversation: often something like a local Housing Club brings people together. A motivated grassroots community is the first pillar of community-led housing; the second is institutional support and innovation that enables a local community to deliver their solutions to housing needs.

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Community-Led Housing models - diverse and flexible across all life-stages

Broadly speaking there are four principal models and a variety of ways in which these models are put into practice.

typically these are intentional communities designed and built by a group of like minded residents. They form micro-neigbourhoods which alleviate social isolation and often have a common house for guests and shared functions. This model is much favoured by older people downsizing, but can work well on an intergenerational basis.

Community Land Trusts (CLTs):

these are set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage affordable homes as well as other assets important to the local community. In the case of housing, CLTs provide affordability in perpetuity for a defined community who can all be members electing a governing board of trustees. This model helps communities retain their key workers in the locality.

Co-operative Housing:

this is a well-tested form of common ownership where residents rent their homes from the co-op which they collectively own. It offers members control of their rents and access to good quality housing in exchange for their legal responsibility to run the co-op democratically. It provides a suitable form of tenure to lower income households, students and single adults; it is often used for sheltered accommodation.

Source: LILAC

Collaborative Self-Build:

while private equity funded custom-build is a small but flourishing sector in UK housing, the possibilities of an affordable approach to collaborative self-build are largely unexplored. The practice of local groups building their homes together has roots in the mutual housing tradition of the 19th century. Modern self-builders bring motivation and commitment to high standards of environmental and social design while building technologies, availability of self-build loans and the financial leverage of CLTs on land value all now combine to make this model affordable to frustrated Millennials.

(Source: Surrey Community Housing Partnership; Hampshire Homes Hub; Community Self Build Agency)

Source Broadhempston CLT

Affordable for whom; accountable to whom - and what about community benefits?

Community-led housing initiatives are often perceived as a subset of the social housing sector providing homes for social or affordable rent in a way similar to local authorities and housing associations. While it is true that local people and their communities invariably do focus on creating homes in which people can afford to live, it is also true that existing market-based definitions of affordability disregard what local household incomes can actually afford, be it to rent or to buy. Housing stress, an indicator of hidden housing needs, generally emerges when rents and purchase costs exceed a third of household income (for those in work), which actually amounts to a fifth of all UK households!

The groups most affected are not typical beneficiaries of social housing but struggling renters; low income older households; struggling homeowners and frustrated first time buyers: the casualties of a broken system. Community-led housing is a broad framework within which local responses to unmet housing needs can be worked out. At its heart is a process of accountability, in all stages of the development, which should rest with the initiating households and communities seeking the local change. Members of local initiatives can have a variety of aspirations. Local communities will benefit not only from new homes that are genuinely affordable, but also from the development of collective and leasehold forms of ownership and schemes that promote a mixture of tenures and social cohesion.

(Source: Affordable Housing Commission report 2019; Martin Field’s Creating Community-Led and Self-Build Homes 2020).

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(Source: Surrey Community Housing Partnership)

What comes first: land or group? - five stages of project development

Forming a motivated local group with a clear idea of what they want in terms of a CLH solution comes first. The group has to have a powerful sense of solidarity: the journey through the stages of project development are not easy. Access to land, it’s availability, purchase, etc. is going to be the big first challenge. It’s slow: this is a journey of many years, four or more, at least. Building group capacity and resilience includes incorporation and a business plan to demonstrate project viability; a site search will throw up unexpected opportunities; getting planning consent will be just one of the many plans required; building operations will depend on your CLH option; before it all goes live responsibilities for sustainable management will need to be in place.

(Source: Surrey Community Housing Partnership)

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A family seeking to buy an average home in Waverley would now require an income of over £102,167 to afford the mortgage, in addition to a 15% deposit.

Waverley Borough Council Housing Need and Local Affordability Analysis 2018

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