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What is Community-Led Housing (CLH)

Community-led housing is a growing movement around the country where people can take action to build the decent and affordable homes that they, or their local community need.

Anyone can start, volunteer and deliver a community-led housing project. You do not need to work in housing, or have any kind of experience in the housing sector, as a builder, an architect or a housing developer.

All it takes to start is one person with an idea, or a group of dedicated local people, who believe that there are lots of different ways to provide affordable and innovative housing.

Community led housing can offer something for everyone

  • Properties must be affordable and should champion inclusivity
  • Projects can be aimed at specific groups of people, or schemes can set aside a number of properties for specific groups of people.  For example local households, older people living in the private rented sector and struggling with rent costs in retirement, or people with support needs, or families that have children with support needs.
  • Properties can be new built homes or a purchase and refurbishment of an existing building.
  • Because the project is led by the community, for the community, the end result is often a well-established community cohesion, having come together through the planning the housing project and overseeing the build.
  • This type of housing often has additional benefits of dealing with issues like isolation, anti-social behaviour, unemployment & inactivity.
  • The properties are designed and created with extensive input of the CLH group and often use space imaginatively, as well as being ecologically and environmentally friendly.

These projects do take time and long-term commitment, however, there are many rewarding outcomes to seeing it through. The organisation, Future of London, published a report called the "Foundations For Community-Led Housing" in November 2019.  The report states that the following outcomes have been experienced people involved in successful CLH projects:

The building social networks 

  • People working on CLH projects come together around sites, issues or interests and develop strong connections, which boosts unity, combats loneliness and isolation, breaks down barriers, perceived prejudices, as well as improves mental health and wellbeing.

The strengthening of skills and capacity  

  • The process of developing and managing a community housing scheme to fruition requires many different skills that those involved learn along the way.
  • These include project management, community coordination, strategy development, fundraising, research and building partnerships. Where groups undertake some of the building labour themselves, they also learn skills such as carpentry, brick laying and tiling. There are many examples of volunteers translating their experience into employment.

Empowerment and democratic control 

  • CLH is a process by which people learn how to take ownership, to develop and exercise responsibility for a project through undertaking a task that will benefit others too.
  • The degree of management responsibility residents take on varies, but they have security and a meaningful say in future decisions about the housing project.

Attention to Design Quality & Higher Standards of Environmental Performance & Innovation 

  • It has been observed that when people have had a say in the design of their homes, considerations such as energy performance and sustainability often factor more centrally.

A Focus on Space & Communal Areas

  • CLH projects tend to prioritise indoor and outdoor communal space; the joint-design process between architects and group members is often used to suit features to those who will be living in the scheme. 
  • CLH projects will often use small building plots that bigger housing developers would not consider building on. Those involved in a CLH project compromise on space or use it more creatively when they have a say in the design; for example by having a communal garden, allotment and/or laundry. 
  • These communal areas also ensures that residents have regularly contact with each other, helping to eliminate isolation and promoting the sharing of life skills and experiences.

Ensuring a Long-Term Interest and Benefits for the Community 

  • Engagement does not end when the keys are handed over. CLH groups have a long-term interest in the housing they have built, which extends into ongoing operations and building maintenance.
  • This impacts on the community in an ongoing way helping to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime.
  • Projects can also play an important role in the life of the surrounding neighbourhood. There are multiple examples of CLH groups setting up events and festivals, running workshops, providing training and space for their local communities.

The Creation of Supportive Neighbourhoods and Communities 

  • The community-led approach to building more housing has seen less opposition than traditional house building schemes because it takes the community on the journey of being involved in the build. 
  • It helps people understand the local need for housing and of nearby protected environments and how innovative, ecological and environmentally friendly designs can work with the surrounding areas to maintain integrity and increase the affordable housing available.

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