The national organisations representing the community-led housing sector have agreed on what constitutes a community-led housing scheme. It can be summarised as follows:
- A requirement that meaningful community engagement and consent occurs throughout the process. The community does not necessarily have to initiate and manage the development process, or build the homes themselves, though some may do
- The local community group or organisation owns, manages or stewards the homes and in a manner of their choosing
- A requirement that the benefits to the local area and/or specified community must be clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity e.g. through an asset lock
Most community-led housing has five main features:
- It is often small scale – in rural areas, most schemes are under 20/25 homes and some are smaller; in urban areas some much larger schemes are now being promoted and delivered
- Schemes are usually set up and run by local people in their own communities, often with external support from housing associations, local authorities or regional and national support organisations
- It provides genuinely affordable homes for rent, shared ownership or sale on sites that are often difficult for mainstream housing providers to develop
- Schemes meet long-term local housing needs, by the community retaining a legal and/or financial interest in the homes provided and ensuring they are always available to local people who need them
- Community-led housing is not for profit, involving considerable voluntary effort
Having said that, some community-led housing schemes are based around groups of people coming together to foster community living and these may not require subsidy, meet local housing needs or be not-for-profit.
Community-led housing comes in many different forms – there are no standard, off-the-shelf approaches, but they can include:
- Community Land Trusts provide affordable homes for local people in need – for rent or shared ownership - by acquiring land and holding it as a community asset in perpetuity
- Housing Co-operatives involve groups of people who provide and collectively manage, on a democratic membership basis, affordable homes for themselves as tenants or shared owners
- Cohousing schemes involve groups of like-minded people who come together to provide self-contained, private homes for themselves, but manage their scheme together and share activities, often in a communal space
- Tenant management organisations provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining the homes through an agreement with their council or housing association landlord
- Self-help housing projects involve small, community-based organisations bringing empty properties back into use, often without mainstream funding and with a strong emphasis on construction skills training and support
- Community self-build schemes involve groups of local people in housing need building homes for themselves with external support and managing the process collectively. Individual self-build is not widely regarded as community-led housing. The National Custom and Self Build Association is the national voice for self-builders. It has a Right to Build Toolkit for self-builders which can be found here: http://righttobuildtoolkit.org.uk/
- Community development trusts and community ‘anchors’ are independent, often well-established community-led organisations operating in a local area. They are focused on a range of economic, social and environmental issues; some are now involved in community-led housing provision
There are overlaps between these different approaches; for example, some cohousing schemes operate as co-operatives and some community land trusts include self-build in their schemes.
Each community-led housing approach has its own national umbrella body that promotes and supports the sector.