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Community-led housing – building homes and capacity

Posted on 29 February 2016

Written by:

Maja Luna Jorgensen

Housing. Whichever way you look at it, it’s an issue that defines our lives and our communities. With a ‘housing crisis’ currently playing out across the country, the need for additional homes is recognised throughout the nation: we are building, but not enough.

Currently, homes are built mainly by private developers, social housing providers, and to a certain extent local authorities (pdf, table 2a/b) providing homes for sale, rent and part-ownership through a range of models. But as communities have borne the brunt of local housing challenges, many are coming together to directly address the issues they face, including a lack of homes, unaffordable homes, as well as numerous other social, economic and community challenges.

On 23 & 24th February 2016, the Building and Social Housing Foundation brought together key stakeholders in community-led housing from across England and Wales to support and build collaboration across the board. Represented were organisations and individuals who for decades have been involved in the broad range of models of community-led housing, as well as newly established initiatives. They brought with them a phenomenal amount of expertise, knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for placing people at the heart of homes and neighbourhoods, and we were delighted to contribute our learning. The event provided a much-needed opportunity for the community-led housing world to exchange experiences and make connections, to learn from each other and to build crucial connections between organisations and facilitate collaboration.

The participating organisations represent the prism of ways that communities are taking practical action to address local housing issues: self-build, co-housing, community land trusts, co-operative housing, and many others. Some are national networks, some regional, some represent individual local projects, and some address specific challenges for specific parts of society, while others are simply delivering housing for society and community in the broadest sense. All are blazing a trail that others can learn and benefit from.

It’s exciting to see that these communities and approaches to community-led housing are now coming together to share their stories, knowledge and experience. They want to inspire others to join them in providing the homes that are needed locally, and to help policymakers understand what can be done to help communities contribute in greater numbers to house building for the nation.

The process of providing homes for their communities is an extremely valuable experience: they strengthen their local social networks, building skills and confidence, and empowering themselves through the collaborative process and through joint ownership and management.

However, communities leading housing face the same challenges that other house builders do. Their projects need access to land to build on, political will to enable them, and their schemes must be viable enough to build the interest of financial backers to invest in bricks, mortar and land.

On the 16th March The Glass-House, in partnership with London Community Housing Cooperative, will host an event to take another step on the learning journey for community led housing.*

Bringing together a cross-sector of stakeholders, the event will create a space for different players to work together to uncover ways of collaborating practically. It will focus on the challenges of developing community-led housing in urban areas of high demand; with numerous players jostling for homes, land, and investment opportunities, the financial and practical challenges are great and the stakes high. We will explore what the benefits of community-led housing are, and how those benefits make it a valuable contributor to our neighbourhoods.

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Our knowledge exchange event is part of a wider programme to support the growth of affordable, community-led housing projects through greater understanding of the opportunities and a wider awareness of methods, resources and support. Coordinated by the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), it is funded by the Nationwide Foundation.

If you are interested in contributing to this event, please contact Louise Dredge, Outreach and Impact Manager,