20 Dec 2017

Community Housing Fund relaunched with £240 million pot

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Community Housing Fund relaunched with £240 million pot

Speaking at the recent Community-led Housing Conference, Minister of State for Housing and Planning Alok Sharma MP announced that the Community Housing Fund will be relaunched in January with a further £240 million boost.

Hosted by the National Community Land Trust Network (NCLT Network) and UK Cohousing, the conference offered the ideal platform for the announcement, confirmation of Governmental support for the community-led housing sector.

The announcement followed a nine-month campaign by members of NCLT Network and UK Cohousing, lobbying more than 50 MPs to persuade Government to further commit to the fund and build on the initial £60 million funding, announced in December 2016. The grants were awarded to those authorities that had the least affordable homes or the highest density of second homes.

The £240 million fund will bring forward £60 million in the first year for revenue and capital funding, with flexibility to meet demand. In addition, an element of the finance will help develop an advisory network to supply community groups to bring forward projects.

In his speech, Sharma enthusiastically summed up the benefits of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to his audience, saying, “…the strengths of community-led housing speak for themselves. You know your local areas better than anyone. And are better placed to make things happen. To see the potential of small sites. Difficult sites. Sites that are off limits or of no interest to developers.

“You are not waiting for someone else to step in and just take what you are offered. You are designing and developing houses that you and your neighbours are proud to call home.

“Homes that, from the word go, are an integral part of your communities. Homes that are not just affordable now, but are affordable forever. That are models of high quality design, energy efficiency and innovation.

“And it’s not just the people in those homes who benefit. Because your work raises the bar for the entire housing market. Pushing up expectations of design quality. Powering the growth of modern methods of construction. And, by supporting smaller-scale building companies making the house building industry more diverse and resilient.”

Sharma also said that he wanted to grow the sector, saying, “I want community-led housing to be a realistic option not just for exceptional people but for all people.” He concluded with, “Now, with government on your side, there is no reason why those hundreds [of community-led homes] cannot become thousands.”

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville MBE, Chair of the NCLT Network said:

“We are delighted that the Government has reinforced its commitment to community-led housing, recognising the valuable role it plays in delivering homes people need and diversifying the housing market.

“The Community Housing Fund is an opportunity to grow the community-led housing movement from hundreds of communities building homes, to thousands, and build a proper market for the sector.”

The full prospectus will be launched in January, and groups will be able to apply for funding then, with allocations announced in April.

Photo: Catherine Harrington, Director at the NCLT Network, Minister for Housing and Planning, Alok Sharma and Anna Kear, Executive Director at UK Cohousing

Editor’s comment

This is a massive coup for the custom build homes sector, although that may not be at first apparent. In a wider context, community-led housing projects are the epitome of customised design, as the whole development will reflect the residents’ desires and needs, and typically they also include the option to tailor homes as well to their owners’ lives.

Community-led projects engage with local people, and create their own new ways of doing things. Big business rarely chooses to afford to encourage innovation, and nor is it particularly interested in it unless it improves the bottom line.

But community-led design is about better ways of living for the people who will live in the homes, and by its very nature it strives to create models of affordability. These can have a huge amount to bring to the conversation about how and what we build. And custom build needs to tap into this. The more CLT projects are realised, the more councils and other stakeholders will support them, helping to normalise them. Check out my blog to see why this normalising is so important.

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