Collaborative Housing – community-led solutions to local housing need

By Tom McCulloch, Collaborative Housing

The UK housing system is in crisis. Not nearly enough affordable homes are being built. Across Berkshire there are thousands of people on social housing registers. Rents are high, and the average house price in Berkshire is over 10 times average earnings. Community-led housing (CLH) is a way to meet housing needs that the system isn’t adequately responding to.

Collaborative Housing is a new support service for community-led housing groups across the Thames Valley: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. CLH is a new concept to a lot of people. Here we answer some common questions about what it is and why more and more communities are looking to CLH to meet their housing needs.

Community-led housing – what’s it all about then?

CLH is when a community group is involved throughout a housing development and then owns or manages the homes afterwards. CLH is led by volunteers, delivering housing solutions to meet local needs. Truly and permanently affordable housing is often a driving principle of a CLH project.

Tell me more about the different kinds of CLH?

There are four main types of CLH: cohousing, Community Land Trusts, co-operatives and self-help housing. With cohousing, households have a self-contained home but residents come together to manage their community and share some facilities. Community Land Trusts are usually set up to deliver affordable, locally-managed homes, but sometimes oversee workspaces and green spaces as well. With cooperative housing, residents democratically control and manage their homes. Self-help housing often involves a group of people repairing and bringing empty properties back into use.

Is it just about an affordable home?

There are many other benefits that come from working with others on a CLH project, such as improved neighbourliness and well-being. Isolation can be reduced, with living environments created where people are in frequent contact and look out for each other. This allows people to live healthy, happy lives in their own communities. Tackling the climate emergency through zero-carbon homes is an aspiration for many groups, while other projects can form part of a strategy to tackle homelessness.

Sounds good but complicated – does it really work?

There are almost 3,000 Community land Trusts in England. In Austria, 60% of housing is community-led. In Germany it’s 80%. So why not in the UK? There are approximately 30 CLTs, cohousing and cooperative housing groups in the Thames Valley already and interest is growing.

Where do I found out more about community-led housing?

Collaborative Housing was officially launched at a Celebration of Community-Led Housing event at Oxford Town Hall on 16th January. A second event to celebrate this launch will be held on the Berkshire/Buckinghamshire borders in the coming months. For more information please visit our website at collaborativehousing.org.uk or email fiona@cohohub.org.uk.

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