Very few local authorities currently maintain a register for interest in community-led housing. A register of interest in CLH can be a valuable tool for local authorities (and potentially housing associations). It can be used as a practical aid for the support and development of schemes and/or it might be used as one measure of tangible demand. Setting one up need not be complicated.
Setting up a register
Because there is currently no statutory requirement to maintain a register of interest in CLH, each authority is free to design the register that best suits their needs and circumstances.
There are various ways in which a local authority can maintain a register of interest:
- It may be possible to expand the current and legally required Self Build and Custom Housebuilding Register to include CLH. The problem with this approach is that the types of people and groups who are interested in Self and Custom Build housing may not necessarily be those who might be interested in CLH. The only real cross-over is where a group of people express an interest in Community Self Build through the Register
- It may be better and easier to set up a separate, informal register for CLH – with links between it and the statutory Self Build and Custom Housebuilding Register. There is not currently a legal requirement for local authorities to maintain a register of interest in CLH
- It may also be possible for local authorities to contract out the responsibility for maintaining a CLH register to a suitable agency – a local CLH support hub or an appropriate regional agency
What information to gather?
Unlike most other housing options, interest in CLH may be expressed both by individual households and by community groups. A local authority might want to keep a register of interested individuals or groups, or probably both. This decision should be informed by the authority’s housing strategy. Accessibility and ease of use and maintenance of a register are the most important considerations.
As for the details to be gathered - most local authorities use an online form to gather people’s details for their Custom and Self Build Register. However, this form of register may not be very easily accessible. Information gathering via online forms which do not allow the respondent to see the extent of the information required until they are in the form can be off-putting.
If a local authority wishes to use a CLH register of interest as a positive promotional tool, they should gather the minimum of information in the most easily accessible way to the interested party.
If they want to engage with people who may only be tentatively interested in CLH, and who may for instance, be in housing need and wary of submitting personal details, care will be needed in the design of the information gathering. Here are some suggestions:
- Design the setting up of a register as part of the overall housing strategy
- Keep separate registers for groups and individuals interested in CLH
- Have multiple links/ pathways to the register/s from relevant other parts of the local authority website eg housing lettings /choice section
- Make sure that the register can be easily located via the website search tool
- Publicise the register among the wider community, community and voluntary sector organisations
- Preface the register with a simple clear introduction to CLH – to help manage enquirer expectations and safeguards the interests of the organisation
- Limit the amount of information collected to the minimum required
- Keep the register as easily accessible as possible
- The key thing is expectation management - to have a system for monitoring, responding and updating