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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

How can people create the homes that their communities need, where the market and developers are failing?

By Claude Hendrickson and Steve Hoey

Community Led Housing (CLH) is a fantastic way that people are creating the homes that their communities need. Around West Yorkshire there are groups planning and delivering affordable, environmentally sustainable homes, where the market is failing to create the housing that should be a human right, not just a privilege for the few.

Community led housing is where:

  1. Open and meaningful community participation and consent takes place throughout the process.

  2. The community group or organisation owns, manages or stewards the homes in whichever way they decide to.

  3. The housing development is of true benefit for the local community, a specific group of people (an intentional community), or both. These benefits should also be legally protected in perpetuity.

We at People Powered Homes* are supporting groups and organisations in places including Otley, the Calder Valley, Holmfirth, Bradford, Knaresborough and Castleford, all using different approaches. We support Black and Minority Ethnic groups; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender affirmative groups, local residents, coops, existing charities and people who have thought up a good idea in the pub or coffee shop.

Frontline self-builders seen here 1994 outside one of 12 Self-Build homes

Three great examples of CLH that have been successful in recent years are Frontline, LILAC and Canopy.

Frontline Community Selfbuild Housing Association (1989-1995), involved 12 unemployed African Caribbean men from Chapeltown in Leeds building 12 two bedroom houses for themselves, which they completed in record time, gaining on-site NVQ qualifications, with many of them now continuing to work within the construction industry.

25 years on – Frontline’s Self-Build homes, Frontline Close at Ravenscar Mount LS8

Frontline’s project manager was then commissioned by Leeds City Council to draw up a 10 year Self-build strategy document to contribute to solving the housing crisis in Leeds.

LILAC has built a co-housing community of 20 eco-build households in West Leeds. The homes and land are managed by residents through a Mutual Home Ownership Society, a pioneering financial model that ensures permanent affordability. The LILAC cooperative built the houses with ModCell, a company which has developed a low-carbon modern method of construction using panel timber walls insulated with strawbale. This significantly reduced the CO2 emitted during construction.

Canopy is renovating empty homes with the help of local volunteers and homeless people, who become the tenants of the home they have helped to create. Empty and derelict houses blight an area and can become sites for vandalism and rubbish dumping. The community focus and small size of the project enables Canopy to renovate the properties, maintain lengthy tenancies and to respond to anti-social behaviour and maintenance problems quickly. All this contributes to the quality of the local environment for residents.

Cohesive Communities funded work at People Powered Homes (PPH) around Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

This funding allowed LCH to develop its strategy around encouraging Black, ethnic and other minoritised groups (e.g. LGBT+, disabilities) who have been underrepresented in the uptake of CLH options at all levels of the sector (board, staff and membership). A number of Black and ethnic minority groups have expressed interest, and the work has also engaged homelessness groups and organisations supporting recent migrants. We are already benefiting from this initial work, which is getting national attention from the CLH sector, and would be looking to share our emerging good practice with the rest of the region.

There are 29 active groups in the region at the moment, all progressing their plans to deliver homes, be it through new-build, renovation of empty homes, coops, Community Land Trusts, or cohousing. The sector has the ambition to produce over 500 homes over the next 7 years, and it needs help to do this. The benefits of CLH are wide ranging, from job creation to affordable homes, from community cohesion to reducing climate impact. We hope that more people will be attracted to getting involved in CLH, and that it will get the support it deserves from those in power.

What the Mayor can do: key success factors for CLH to thrive

There is a growing movement of CLH in our region. To enable it to continue and grow, we need support. In particular, the new Mayor of West Yorkshire could help in the following ways:

  • Support People Powered Homes as the CLH hub for West Yorkshire and make a public declaration that housing is a human right, not just a privilege for the few.

  • Fund the West Yorkshire CLH Hub to support groups to create the affordable housing their local communities need (there is a precedent for this in London and Manchester, with mayors in both places providing £250,000 each over 3 years).

  • Lobby government for additional long term funding for the CLH sector.

  • Work with local councils to ensure affordable land/building supply for CLH groups including coops.

  • Include the CLH sector in a Housing First programme.

  • Spatial planning: when the Mayor gets power over this, require Community Led Housing to be considered for inclusion on any development of 10 homes or more.

  • Development Corporation/Areas: if established, use this to involve CLH around community involvement, housing development, training and job creation.

  • Compulsory purchase: use power to assemble land to support the delivery of CLH.

*People Powered Homes (PPH) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Leeds Community Homes. PPH is the Community Led Housing enabler hub for West Yorkshire. We provide advice, support and development consultancy to the CLH sector.

Read more about Community Led Housing here:

Claude Hendrickson
Claude Hendrickson has initiated and participated in a number of projects that have transformed the lives of those involved including Frontline self build housing project; The Yes Cyber project in 2000 refurbished an old take away to become a community Internet cafe; CYP10-2club giving young people the chance to shape the future of services delivered to them. He does consultancy around Self-Build and Black male role models and sits on a numbers of Strategy Boards in Leeds and West Yorkshire.

Steve Hoey
Steve Hoey is passionate about affordable and environmentally sustainable housing. He is the Vice Chair of the National Community Land Trust Network, a co-founder and the CEO of People Powered Homes and Leeds Community Homes, providing advice and support to Community Led Housing groups in West Yorkshire. Twitter: @steve_hoey

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