A new report involving academics from the University of Sheffield has revealed how community-led housing has the potential to generate a wealth of benefits amidst the housing crisis.

The Housing Futures study, published today (8 December 2018), makes a series of recommendations to maximise the potential of community-led housing and ensure it can contribute towards achieving a more progressive, democratic and inclusive housing system.

Community-led housing schemes allow people and communities to play a leading role in addressing their own housing needs, with benefits including:

  • Positive neighbourhood outcomes for health and social wellbeing, environmental sustainability and skills and employment.
  • Protecting communities against gentrification-induced displacement.
  • Keeping income within community-led organisations and reinvesting it for community use, rather than extracted as shareholder profit.
  • Opening up the housing system.

Examples of successful community-led housing projects include: The Turner Prize-winning Granby 4 Streets in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, which followed a long-term campaign by residents against disinvestment and neglect by authorities; and Homes for Change in the Hulme area of Manchester.

The report by Housing Futures – a research partnership bringing together academics from the University of Sheffield’s Urban Institute and members of the Greater Manchester co-operative and housing movement – explores what community-led housing may have to offer low income urban neighbourhoods within the Greater Manchester city region.

Dr Sophie King, from the University of Sheffield’s Urban Institute, said: “Community-led housing has strong potential to contribute towards addressing some of the failures of the current housing system. By rejecting the private right to profit, community-led groups can exert local democratic control over their housing circumstances, enabling residents to directly shape their neighbourhoods.

“The sector requires appropriate levels of support to meet its potential, and to find ways to scale upwards and outwards while retaining autonomy and independence.”

The report – Housing Futures: What can community-led housing achieve for Greater Manchester? – found that community-led housing is more likely to generate positive social welfare and democratic gains when communities take a leadership role from the beginning of schemes and are properly involved in their implementation and governance.

It says: “These kinds of processes are necessarily more time-consuming than consultative processes led ultimately by professionals. But to ignore lessons of the past where community-led housing experiments have suffered from co-optation, mission drift or have ultimately been subsumed into the private market, risks repeating historical mistakes.”

It therefore found that community-led housing projects for low-income communities in Greater Manchester can only be achieved with appropriate forms of investment, support and popular mobilisation which provide for long-term processes of collaboration and development.

This means that access to land, finance and technical development support are critical and there is an urgent need to stall the large-scale privatisation of public land across the city region and make more land available for community control.

The report, which has been co-produced by Dr Richard Goulding in partnership with a steering group of community-led housing practitioners and activists, recommends that establishing a new independent Greater Manchester enabling hub for community-led housing, with strong collaborative relationships with the Combined Authority and the ten local Greater Manchester authorities, will be crucial to promote a strong and effective community-led housing sector.

“In a de-industrialised city region with some of the highest poverty rates, the new enabling hub should have an explicit focus on promoting access to affordable community led housing for people of low incomes,” it said.

To be a credible and accountable voice for the sector, an enabling hub should be independent from government.

Housing Futures: Community-led Alternatives for Greater Manchester has been made possible through the Realising Just Cities programme at the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield, which has been funded by the Mistra Urban Futures centre.

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