information for transformational people

Selfbuild 246Self-build housing - a win, win, win? 

In the UK, only around 10 per cent of new homes are self-built. But with the housing shortage increasingly acute, many groups and local authorities around the country are looking to community self-build as a potential solution. 

Local Authorities release land to community groups. The group raises initial capital, plans the development together and gets planning permission. Then raises more capital and builds the homes. Those in the group can earn a percentage e.g. 20%  of the price of their home in return for the labour they put towards the build. Some groups don't go for ownership but very affordable rents. The Local Authority may also participate and end up with some accommodation at a social rent or part-own some others in a shared-ownership scheme which lowers price to developers. As you can see, there is a lot of options and flexibility.

To ease the build, schemes use prefabricated building models such the Passivhaus environmentally friendly, low-energy model. The air heating system reduces heating bills to around 80% of traditional systems ensuring the new homes offer genuinely affordable housing.

Various funds are available for community groups to apply for finance e.g. £60M Community Housing Fund, £3bn Home Building Fund, etc.

What are the wins?

First, a win for people in the community group; the ability to get on the housing ladder or afford a rented home, increased skills, improving a sense of community, control over assets, quality housing.

Secondly, a win for Local Authorities; unlocking small sites that are not attractive or available to established housebuilders, reducing reliance on public services, providing a range of genuinely affordable housing in perpetuity, mobilising public support for new homes and regeneration initiatives, promoting community cohesion and resilience.

Thirdly, a win for the community; skills, training and jobs can be built in which can be targeted e.g. at care leavers and unemployed young people, high quality and imaginatively designed homes and neighbourhoods, mutual support within communities.

Here's a brief story of one development in Leicester:

Land that was left derelict in a Leicester inner-city estate has been transformed into the biggest Passivhaus social housing project in Europe, all thanks to a local community group. Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council (SLNC) consisting of local residents and representatives of locally based organisations worked with the local community to create Saffron Heath, an eco-friendly social housing development of 68 new homes providing genuinely affordable housing for its residents. And, with all houses occupied by the end of 2016, the group is building an additional £1.6m housing project on the same site for completion end 2017.

SLNC started as an urban community farm to grow vegetables for SLNC’s day care service users. Fruit grown on Saffron Acres is being turned into jams and chutneys sold as part of a project providing skills training for local unemployed people and adults with learning difficulties.

SLNC identified housing as a key local issue. As SLNC already provided many different social services to local residents, it then embarked on a lengthy process of consultation with hundreds of local residents about the area’s housing needs before it was successful in acquiring 22 acres of land as an asset transfer from Leicester City Council.

Despite having no experience in managing and delivering housing projects, SLNC partnered with Westleigh/EMH Homes to carry out the development. Retaining money within the community to help solve local social issues can offer longer-term solutions towards sustainable regeneration of neighbourhoods. The benefits of building the development with such a community-centred approach are already being felt by its new residents; quality housing, safe neighbourhood, room to play, space to live, active community centre, financed community worker.

Concerned about the housing crisis, homelessness? Why not try to help your local community solve the problem through self-build?

Find out more details here.

Download some guidelines here.

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Geoff Knott, 23/08/2017

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