Giroscope Volunteers & Supervisors working on empty homes in Hull: Copyright BSHF
In recent years there has been a growth in the number of community led housing projects. With this in mind we asked Jennifer Line of the Building and Social Housing Foundation to write a guest blog outlining what community led housing means and how it can deliver homes and benefit communities.
What is Community-led Housing?
“What is community-led housing?” is a question I’m asked almost every time I tell somebody I’m working on it. Community-led housing is a catch-all term which encompasses multiple activities. Listing some of the ways it manifests clarifies how broad it is… Housing Cooperatives… Community Land Trusts… Cohousing… Group self-build… Self-Help Housing… Neighbourhood Planning… Tenant Management Organisations… All better terms with their own history and jargon.
So why bother with a single term at all? The answer is that as the movement develops we see increasing numbers of ‘hybrids’ – schemes that achieve the outcomes they need by using whatever bits and pieces of different approaches make sense. So now rather than talking about those specific ‘models’, we try to talk about outcomes and principles. While there is huge diversity on offer, it is hard to find any form of community-led housing that does not embrace these three main principles:
- The community is integrally involved throughout the process in key decisions like what is provided, where, and for who. This being said, they don't always initiate the conversation, or build homes themselves.
- Community groups generally take a long term formal role in the ownership, stewardship or management of the homes.
- The benefits of the scheme to the community (whether that’s a local area or specified group) are clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity.
Because what people want and need from their housing is constantly evolving, the arena of community-led housing is too. Schemes might provide affordable homes, training opportunities, additional community activities (like community spaces, pubs or shops), in addition to ‘standard’ benefits (stronger, more resilient, more empowered communities). They might use local labour so investment stays in the neighbourhood, involve young people from the area in developing their ideas, or experiment with new approaches to construction. They might build new homes, refurbish empty ones, or convert empty buildings.
We at the Building and Social Housing Foundation, along with many others with a passion for the potential of community-led housing, are making a concerted effort to help more people understand and access it. Being part of the discussion about what community-led housing is, does and could do is fascinating, motivating and inspiring.
Because of its diversity, the landscape of community-led housing is complicated. Numerous efforts are underway to make it easier to find the right expertise when you need it, but as a starting point if you like the idea of housing that is more than just bricks and mortar:
- Until you know the “what”, don’t worry about the “how”. Focus on what you want to achieve. The legal model and structure of your scheme will emerge as part of the process.
- Speak to someone who knows the landscape early (there are numerous organisations operating in this field that could provide you with some initial advice and signpost you to further resources).
- Talk to other people doing it! We’ve set up an open group on Facebook so people can do just that.
By Jennifer Line
Building & Social Housing Foundation