Why the East Needs More Community-led Housing
We have seen community activity rise to unprecedented levels not seen since the 2nd World War, and l believe we can harness this energy and create more sustainable communities because of it. One way to do this is by supporting communities who want to build community led housing to address the affordable housing shortages in their towns and villages and a new Hub to help communities do this is now up and running called Eastern Community Homes.
Eastern Community Homes was set up with funding from the government to support local people who want to be part of the place-shaping of their local community. Community led housing can take many forms – not only community land trusts but co-housing schemes, co-ops, alms houses and self-build schemes. The issue that defines community led housing is that the community have a stake in perpetuity in the project and that there is a lasting benefit to the community as well. We have some fantastic examples of community led housing across the East of England like the community land trusts in Lavenham and Stretham as well as innovative co-housing schemes in South Cambridgeshire and Colchester. Nevertheless, the region is falling behind other regions in the amount of community led housing that is coming forward, and this will not change unless local authorities get behind their communities and this is why I think they should.
Firstly, as one of the fastest-growing regions with exponential growth in housing numbers, we need to find a better way of involving the grassroots in place-shaping new and existing communities. Just think of the difference it would make if every new strategic development had a space for self-builders or community land trusts or small groups committed to living together. You can see that each phase could have a built-in community anchor of people committed to and engaged in the future of their homes ready to take on the community assets necessary for a vibrant, prosperous town or village.
The second reason is without the right planning policy in place to support community led housing it often takes communities many years to get a scheme up and running. Several councils have adopted an enabling planning policy in their Local Plans or through supplementary planning guidance. Which has increased levels of community led housing as this smooths the path as illustrated in places like East Cambridgeshire District Council. Eastern Community Homes can share this expertise and help members and officers develop the right policy for their area.
The third area is political leadership and the determination and drive to help communities get their community led schemes off the ground. Councils can pledge their support for community led housing in many ways, but one way is to get behind the new Eastern Community Homes hub which will deliver technical advice and support to communities from start to finish, share best practice and build a network of community led builders across the region. Another way is the provision of small grants to help groups become registered and many councils across the East are doing this too. Raising awareness is crucial! There are many opportunities to find out more through on-line webinars, like the National Community Trust Network event on the 8th December which you can find more about here.
We can shape our places differently and more sustainably by giving our communities a real stake in the future by promoting community led housing and community engagement as an essential part of the growth agenda. For more information go to the Eastern Community Homes website – we are here to help.
Guest post – Cecilia Tredget
Cecilia works across the eastern region, implementing long-term community-led housing strategies.