Community groups working to build their own homes will welcome the news that government has launched a £4million Community Housing Fund grant programme.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher launched the fund recently, which is an extension to the Community Housing Fund, and is targeted at groups who are already organised and can prove their deliverability and are at the later stages of the pre-development phases.

The fund is administered by the Community Led Homes Partnership an umbrella organisation made up of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, Locality, National Community Land Trust Network and UK Cohousing Network.

Community housing bodies, as well as NaCSBA, continue to lobby government to renew the wider Community Housing Fund, with news expected in the Comprehensive Spending Review in Autumn. Continuing the fund was one of the recommendations set out in the recently published Bacon Review, so the news of this interim fund is a welcome example of government’s willingness to support the sector.

Tom Chance, Community Land Trust Network Chief Executive said: “Community led housing groups are rooted in their communities and truly understand local housing needs. There are so many fantastic projects planned across the country. This programme will help many of these projects come to fruition.

“This extension is very welcome news. But we know there are potentially 23,000 homes in the pipeline and without further Community Housing Fund most will not happen. So our campaign calling for the fund to be renewed for a further 4 years continues.”

The fund is already open to applications until 31 December 2021 (or the money is allocated), and the works funded by the grant must be completed by the close date of March 2022.

To apply complete an eligibility checker on the Community Led Homes website. Eligible groups will then be emailed an online grant application form.

Anyone considering a self-build scheme as part of a group may want to consider cohousing, and, if so, a new practical guide from UK Cohousing Network offers practical insight to help you achieve your goal. Cohousing is a model in which you have your own private home while sharing common facilities as an intentional community of likeminded individuals.

Cohousing is a distinct approach to designing healthy neighbourhoods, which was developed in Denmark in the 1960s. Following steady growth in the UK over the past 14 years, UK Cohousing Network has responded to demand by publishing the country’s first ever comprehensive ‘how-to’ guide.

Based upon first-hand experience of existing schemes, the guide is essential reading for both housing/planning professionals and community groups, and takes the reader through all the stages of development from conception to living together.

What’s special about cohousing?

Cohousing communities are usually between 20-40 private dwellings with a common house, shared garden and other facilities. Residents in cohousing schemes share a common vision, and are closely involved in the design, development and long-term management/stewardship of their neighbourhoods. As such, community is at the heart of every project.

Shared spaces vary, and can include a hub for meetings and get-togethers, a shared kitchen (in addition to individual homes’ kitchens) for optional communal meals, shared gardens, laundries or even guest suites for smaller units, to remove the need for redundant bedrooms.

Practical Guide to Cohousing

Practical guidance

With over 170 pages, the guide takes groups through the entire project pipeline, drawing on experience from cohousing groups and experienced advisors. The guide explains the process of creating a group – including setting a vision, finding a site, planning, building and living in the finished project. It also explains design elements and issues around finance.

 

Cohousing has well-recognised benefits, and a major element in that it combats isolation and loneliness, making it a popular choice for older people, as well as a route for families and younger people. This also makes it a popular route for groups of people with shared value sets or experiences, such as the LGBTQ community.

The guide is part of the membership package for UK Cohousing Network and is available to the Community Led Homes hub network. The UK Cohousing Network’s website has lots of free information about the route, and the network is part of the Community Led Homes website, which explains the full range of approaches to community led housing, and the differences.

But groups seriously embarking on a cohousing project will find the guide, and the membership that supports it, a valuable resource.
Membership of the UK Cohousing Network costs between £60 annually for individuals looking for groups, £90 a year for established groups, with prices for NGOs and commercial memberships set at £200/£300 per year.

Don’t forget, you can join your local self build register as an individual and as a group. Find yours at the Right to Build Portal

Image: Marmalade Lane Cohousing; Duncan Hayes

Collaborative Housing is co-ordinating the online Thames Valley Community Led Housing Festival, 10-14 May, the perfect opportunity to find out more about community led housing. Aimed to planners, developers and local authorities, the festival is a great opportunity for anyone interested in learn about this diverse route into housing.

During the event you can learn about the political landscape around community led housing, as well as hear from group members working to create, or living in, projects around the Thames Valley.

The focus is very much about scaling up community led housing, looking at the opportunities and challenges around the delivery fo large-scale community projects.

Duncan Hayes of NaCSBA will be speaking at the event, discussing how the Right to Build works for groups and sharing some learnings.

collaborative housing hub

collaborative housing festival

Government recently announced the winners of its cross-departmental Homes of 2030 competition, with igloo Regeneration’s custom build +Home being the joint winner with Connector Housing. Led by RIBA and BRE, the competition was looking for innovative housing solutions that met the climate challenge.

The judges were looking for projects that would bring about change through innovation and delivery, and feed into government housing policy. The winning and runner up designs will be built for the Future Living Expo Sunderland 2023, giving visitors the chance to experience the low carbon, smart buildings first hand.

Winning projects

Announced by Housing Secretary Chris Pincher, the joint winning projects were +Home and Connector Housing. At HOMES UK, Christopher Pincher MP said: “Two entries really captured the judges’ imaginations – their designs show the way housing in this country can be reimagined and for that I would like to sincerely congratulate both winners of these worthy awards.”

+Home

This design (main image) is based around the idea of custom build homes that people design for themselves, creating a community-led approach. +Home is repeatable, enabling people to create affordable homes, thanks to simple, and low-carbon components, such as frames, that are also recyclable. The design was created by igloo Regeneration with Useful Projects, Expedition Engineers and Mawson Kerr.

Mark Hallett of igloo, a NaCSBA member, said, “Igloo have been advocating for Custom Build for a decade now as well as delivering a small number of pilot projects. We believe Custom Build should be a mainstream option and so used the opportunity of the Home of 2030 competition to advocate for this approach to Government.

“There are big system change challenges to overcome but we hope that building all six of the Home of 2030 winners as part of the Sunderland 2023 expo will help to publicise Custom Build to a wider audience.”

Connector Housing

Connector Housing – Openstudio / LDA Design / Hoare Lea / Gardiner & Theobold

Connector Housing

Based around the design of units that work together, Connector Housing relies on ‘Connector’ units to create different building types at that allow flexibility in terms of density and design.

The Connector is a vertical model used to create stairwells, storage and work spaces or to provide access to communal gardens. Combined with ‘base’ and ‘loft’ units, the components can be used to create houses or apartments.Connector Housing was designed by Openstudio with Hoare Lea, LDA Design and Gardiner & Theobald.

 

Find a NaCSBA member in our directory.

Anyone considering a community led homes project will be interested to know that the clock is ticking for proposals to be submitted for a 0.10acre site in Waltham Forest, London, with submissions due 11.1.21.

The land is available to deliver affordable housing in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, and the council is keen to hear from community led housing groups in the area who are looking for a site.

The land in question is a former garage site in a residential area of terraced housing, which is currently partly being used for parking. There is a range of site investigations already undertaken, that bidders will want to see.

Find out more and download the lease, details and site particulars on the Greater London Authority site.

You can also contact the council’s community led housing team.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has created a new website for selling  small publicly-owned sites as a pilot for providing plots for the capital’s small- and medium-enterprise builders.

Find out more about community living with Community Led Homes and Community Led Housing London.

Mayor of London Small Sites

For small developers and groups, the Greater London Authority hosts a Small Sites webpage, with links to small, publicly-owned parcels of land that are suitable for delivering housing. The sites are available for developers, housing associations and communities. 

An initiative of Mayor Sadiq Khan, the site was originally piloted in 2018 to market 10 small sites for London’s small- and medium-enterprise (SME) house builders. Since then, the site has grown offering SMEs and groups a route to publicly-owned land, making it a valuable resource.

There are currently 40 sites available through the Small Sites, Small Builders programme, details of which are available on the website or via the newsletter. Sites to look out for are Tower Hamlets which is release a series of small sites to self builders as part of its Affordable Self Build Programme

As well as sites owned by local authorities, some land is owned by Transport for London. The site also includes resources for small builders, including links to development finance

 

 

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The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has partnered with UK Cohousing Network, National Community Land Trust Network and the Federation of Master Builders to create a new group called Housing Diversification. It’s aim is to persuade Government to create more opportunities for more people to live in custom build, self build and community-led housing. These are houses are typically built by small- to medium-enterprise (SME) housebuilders.

Together, the groups believe that this type of housing could result in an extra 130,000 homes being built by 2025. These homes would be additional units, in that they would be extra to the homes built by the major housebuilders in this period, and therefore help government in its ambition to build 300,000 homes a year.

Housing Diversification knows that the homes built by SME builders for self build and community-led projects are typically more sustainable, beautiful, innovative and of higher quality than many open market homes. In addition, these homes also boost the local economy, providing local jobs and training opportunities.

The number of SME housebuilders has fallen significantly since the 1980s, and halved following the last recession. These SME companies are vital for the supply of local houses, and opportunities must be created to allow them to operate on a level playing field with volume housebuilders, which have very deep pockets.

Campaigning for building back better

Housing diversification has three asks of Government:

  1. The establishment of a high-level Housing Diversification Taskforce, with a range of items set out for consideration (see Appendix).
  2. Commitment to a five-year renewal of the Community Housing Fund as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
  3. The creation of a robust and statutory system of reporting on diversification as part of Government housing statistics, including on the NPPF requirement for 10% of homes to be delivered on small sites (one hectare or less).

Housing Diversification members:

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, CEO, National Custom and Self Build Association and spokesperson for the group said: “Despite the importance of houses to our lives and the scale of their cost, there is currently too little choice when it comes to new homes in this country.

“We have come together as Housing Diversification to deliver more passion, quality, and care into the new homes and the new communities that we, as a nation, need to be creating. Just like any other market, increasing diversification will improve quality, innovation, and value. We will deliver homes more people want to live in and that more welcome being built.”

 

The Cambridge cohousing scheme, Marmalade Lane, has won the top award at the Royal Town Planning Insitute’s Awards 2020, adding to its already sizeable list of awards. Marmalade Lane was awarded the RTPI’s Silver Jubilee Cup having been entered by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service and development company TOWN, which is a NaCSBA member.

A first for Cambridge, the Marmalade Lane cohousing scheme was given the top prize as the judges felt that it demonstrated the value of community-led housing and a collaborative approach to planning.

The judges commented that the development puts the needs of the residents at its heart, and has created a distinctive and sustainable neighbourhood that was full of character.

Sadie Morgan, design industry leader and Chair of the judging panel, said: “Marmalade Lane shows the importance in new housing developments of greater local participation, increased opportunities for accessing nature and the prioritisation of people over cars – its design has helped create a place with a genuine sense of belonging and a rich local culture that harnesses the humour and warmth that are so vital in these challenging times.”

Marmalade Lane

Cambridge’s first cohousing project has its roots in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when the developers left the land in limbo. A cohousing group had formed in Cambridge, then called K1 Cohousing, and was looking for land, and the council supported the process of allocating the site for cohousing.

Working with community housing consultants Stephen Hill and Adam Broadway, they paved the way for the group to create Marmalade Lane and build the homes that supported them in the way they wanted to live.

Rather than pursue self build, Town was brought on as the developer, working with Mole Architects and Scandinavian eco-house builder Trivselhus to design and build the scheme on behalf of the residents.

The project is made up of 42 homes, customised to the residents preferences, but using a limited system of choice to ensure designs were replicable and cost-effective. This resulted in three house types, with 27 layout options, with mortgage finance provided by Ecology Building Society.

The result is a scheme of terraced houses and apartments, set around shared gardens and a pedestrianised play street, with a common house for socialising and cooking shared meals, should people wish to eat as a group.

What is cohousing

Cohousing is a form of community-led housing, where people come together to build and live in an ‘intentional’ community, with shared values. This may work with other community solutions, such as a Community Land Trust – which holds the land the project is built on in perpetuity, although this is not the case at Marmalade Lane.

A core principle is that most cohousing projects have shared elements. These often include a common room for socialising, but may include shared guest suites to keep spare rooms to a minimum, laundries, kitchens, and shared external design features, such as orchards, play streets, car parks, gardens and so on.

All the houses and flats have their own facilities, such as kitchens, so it is very much based around people wanting to live as part of a community, but they can still live independently. Costs and maintenance of the communal facilities are shared, so there’s typically a rosta for jobs.

But it represents a different way of living from the typical UK experience, where people and community underpin the homes, making it a transformative route to housing, that is growing in appeal.

 

Find out more about cohousing at Community Led Homes. 

Read about the Older Women’s Cohousing Group in London.

Celebrity architectural designer Charlie Luxton has been working with the community of Hook Norton, Oxfordshire, as they work to create a community-led affordable homes scheme, which has recently applied for planning permission. Once approved, the scheme will create 12 dwellings set around a new communal landscape, with a community building providing a new village hub.

The Hook Norton Low Carbon Trust kickstarted the project by identifying a neglected piece of council-owned land, and worked with Cherwell District Council and other stakeholders to develop the idea of a sustainable and affordable housing project. The scheme has been planned to provide homes for local people in housing need in the community, with a strong local connection, using a Community Land Trust model that assures the affordability remains in perpetuity.

Community engagement was a crucial element throughout the scheme, helping to shape the homes, designed by Charlie Luxton Design, to meet local ambitions to boost sustainability. The project has set the target of being carbon neutral both during construction and occupation, and will incorporate renewable energy sources, with its own micro grid.

In addition, the project will include a flexible multi-use space, laundry and cafe, with overflow bedrooms for residents, as well as resources for wider village use, including a workshop and communal ‘library-of-things’.

The apartments are set around a communal green

“Hook Norton Community Housing is a project by the people of Hook Norton for the People of Hook Norton,” said Charlie Luxton. “It has grown out of local need for sustainable affordable housing for the residents of our community, that 150 new developer led homes in the village have failed to deliver.

“Working with Cherwell District Council, the land owners and others local organisations the project has been design with extensive continuity consultation, over 15 events and intersections to provide 12 Passivhaus Plus flats and a community building with laundry, workshops, cafe and a library of things.

“Not only are the flats and facilities prioritised for people with local connections, it is planned for construction to be undertaken by small/medium local contractors to ensure as much of the build spend stays in the community. This project is trying to show that housing can be about people and the planet before profit.”

 

Find out more about the Hook Norton community homes.
Get started on your own community-led housing project by signing your local Right to Build Register or find out more about community-led housing models, such as Community Land Trusts on the Self Build Portal or Community-led Homes.

An affordable self build housing project in Lewisham, London, has come a step closer with the local council signing the 250-year lease on the land in Church Grove, Ladywell.

Signed by Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan (right in photo), the deal secures the site for the community-led project by the Rural and Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS). This paves the way for the building to begin for the 33 homes on the 1-acre site. Including a range of homes, from one- to four-bedrooms.

The site is a Community Land Trust, with the land held by the trust and homes valued mostly on the cost of building, as opposed to the cost of building and the price of land. This mechanism helps keep properties affordable, combined with the fact that the homes have been designed to be simple and cost effective to build with the option for future residents to get involved with construction to bring costs down even further.

To celebrate the milestone, a time capsule was buried on the site of the newly completed Community Hub, a training facility for self builders that was recently completed with the help of 90 volunteers over the last six months.

RUSS Chair Anurgag Verma said: “It’s been a long haul getting our project to this stage, and Lewisham Council has supported us on many occasions along the journey. Our site at the end of Church Grove is one of the main things they’ve assisted us with, so the signing of the lease on the land is an important hurdle for us to clear.”

Photo credit: Jeff Teader

A new community build project supporting veterans to self build their own homes has started in Waterworks Lane, Leominster, Hereford. Stonewater Housing Association is working with the Community Self Build Agency (CSBA) and the Royal British Legion to create 19 new homes on a mixed development of two-bed flats and a range of houses, with the final homes available for affordable rent.

Many of the homes will be on offer to ex-service personnel, with the opportunity for up to nine veterans to be involved as builders on the scheme, where they will receive training and support. Veterans that help build the scheme will then be offered the option to rent one of the properties on completion, gaining a secure family home and a set of valuable and transferable skills.

Stonewater’s Waterworks Lane project illustrates how a range of organisations can work with local councils to provide much-needed new homes using alternative models, that can bring a range of sustainable goals to the table, including improving lives. The project will benefit from Homes England funding, part of a £224m award to the strategic Stonewater and Guiness Partnership that will create 4,500 homes by 2020.

Matthew Crucefix, Assistant Director of Development (West), said: “At Stonewater our commitment to providing everyone with a place they can call home is at the core of everything we do. In Herefordshire, there is a large armed forces presence and so there is a constant need for veteran accommodation.

We’re proud to lead the way alongside our community partners and show other organisations how important schemes like this are for the wider community. We hope to inspire others to take on similar projects in other areas of the country with similar challenges.”

Councillor Barry Durkin, at Herefordshire Council, said: “We are committed to supporting local veterans across Herefordshire and this new self-build partnership with Stonewater and Alabaré is a great opportunity to provide more affordable housing for veterans.

“This scheme not only provides much needed homes but will also provide the veterans with the training and skills needed to not only help build their own homes and but hopefully also gain future employment.”

Since being set up in the late 1980’s, Community Self Build Agency (CSBA) has helped hundreds of homeless or vulnerable people to have the opportunity to build their own home. From May 2019 CSBA has become part of Alabaré, which manages the day-to-day operations.

CSBA has completed over 178 self-build projects across the UK to date, developing in-excess of 1200 housing units to some of the most disadvantaged members of the local community. Their award winning schemes have included the Nelson Project in Plymouth – a 24-home site that included 12 self-build homes for the military veterans and 12 affordable homes.

Major Ken Hames, MBE, of Alabaré, said: “We’ve worked on similar projects in other parts of the country which, whilst challenging to get off the ground, really make a long-term difference.

“For the veterans fortunate enough to be part of the project they have a unique opportunity to gain the skills that could lead to long term employment, and the support to ultimately be able to live successful, independent lives once more. Together they will be creating a community that they can call home.”

 

Read about the CSBA’s Nelson Project

 

Photograph: From left to right: Tina Wood, Housing Development Officer, Herefordshire Council; Clare Bray, Development Manager, Stonewater; Karl Arrowsmith, Development Officer, Alabaré; Leigh-Ann Jones, Development Manager, Stonewater; Major Ken Hames MBE, Alabaré; Martin Walsh, Regional Outreach Officer Midlands; The Royal British Legion, Simon Deakin, Senior Contracts Manager, Harper Group Construction; Nick Aubrey, Project Manager, Harper Group Construction; Matthew Crucefix, Assistant Development Director, Stonewater; and, Scott Porter, Site Manager, Harper Group Construction