Some housing associations have been as proactive as local authorities in supporting community-led housing schemes across parts of England and Wales. Some of these housing associations are members of the Placeshapers Group which acts as a national network for more than 100 housing associations in England, many with an urban community focus. Others not involved with Placeshapers work, for example, with rural communities, to bring schemes to fruition on rural exception sites. Several housing associations in Wales are working directly with communities there to deliver co-operative housing and cohousing schemes.
Those housing associations that are already involved in community-led housing do so in a variety of ways:
- By initiating and supporting the development of community-led schemes themselves, following the sector’s definition of CLH
- By offering development partnerships to local communities. Many communities wishing to see affordable homes provided for local people have turned to housing associations to help them achieve it. At one end of the spectrum this can involve a housing association providing development and management support to an independent community group which secures finance to buy land or buildings and provides homes that it owns and manages; at the other end, a housing association can raise all the finance, build, manage and maintain homes on land or in buildings bought by the community and leased to the association
- By partly or wholly de-risking the housing development process for communities, but still offering them a meaningful role in the process and a long-term stake in the end product
- By working with Community-led Housing Support Hubs, where they exist, to secure specialist support for development projects
- By using their financial relationships and strength with major lenders to borrow money for community-led schemes at preferential interest rates
- By including community-led housing in their community investment strategies. North Star Housing Group in Stockton has a community investment strategy that includes support for a community land trust, a tenant management organisation and a housing co-operative. It has also part- funded a major scoping study for community-led housing in North and East Yorkshire
- By employing specialist support staff. Aster Housing Group operates across central southern and south west England and employs a full-time Project Manager for community-led housing within its South West development team, focusing on community land trusts and cohousing schemes. Accord Housing Group in the West Midlands provides a range of services to housing co-operatives through dedicated staff teams in Redditch and Birmingham
- By providing direct grants to community-led housing groups, usually through their community investment programmes, although these are widely being scaled back due to budgetary pressures
- By transferring low demand homes to locally-based community anchors, usually in areas of old Victorian terraced housing which have become increasingly difficult to let and where there is a robust community infrastructure to take some of it on
- By actively supporting regional community-led housing networks where a broad spectrum of organisations and individuals meet to exchange ideas and promote the sector
As well as ‘mainstream’ housing associations, most of the existing housing co-operatives across England are Registered Providers and have substantial assets. Some of them have the potential to develop and support new community-led housing schemes in their communities.
[PD8]Cross reference to Toolkit Section 2.7