Report opens up new community-led solutions to housing crisis


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.

Additional information

Community-led housing

The term community-led housing is in some ways a policy construct, but the researchers use it in the report to refer to forms of housing that are initiated and governed by residents/tenants themselves (and in some cases, also residents of the surrounding area). They engage with three main forms of community-led housing: housing co-operatives, community land trusts, and cohousing.

Examples of community-led projects

Homes for Change is a housing co-operative based in the inner city neighbourhood of Hulme, Manchester, an area that has seen extensive regeneration and gentrification pressures over the past 30 years. The co-operative was originally founded as the Warehouse Project in 1987, a project intended to enable residents to remain in the area in the face of largescale demolition programmes. Though funding cuts with the Housing Act 1988 delayed plans, the co-operative was able to register as a social housing provider and secure extra funding in the 1990s. While government directions prevented it from building its own housing, it was able to partner with the housing association Guinness Housing Trust and enter a long-term lease for a purpose-built development opened as Homes for Change in 1996.

Homes for Change currently manages 75 social rented homes as a housing co-operative, with a 25-year lease from Guinness. Within the building it contains a workspace, Work for Change, which provides room for a number of co-operative and social enterprises, while the building itself contains ecologically low-impact design features. While differences in ethos and culture have sometimes led to tensions in the relationship with Guinness Trust, the co-operative is self-governing and financially independent of revenue subsidy.

Granby 4 Streets is a community land trust in the Toxteth area of Liverpool which won the Turner Prize in 2016. Its origins lie in a long-term campaign by residents against disinvestment and neglect by authorities. The area was earmarked for demolition with the onset of Housing Market Renewal (HMR) from 2002. Though many streets were demolished, resident mobilisation prevented destruction of the cluster of Victorian terraced housing now owned by Granby 4 Streets.

Established in 2011 following the end of HMR, the CLT successfully managed to secure funding and support, acquiring the properties and bringing them back into use, with work starting at the end of 2014. Prior to the abandonment of HMR, residents opposed to demolition began planting community gardens, painting murals, and holding monthly street markets, reclaiming their area and bringing it back into use.

The local support built through this enabled a long process of negotiation with the local council, housing associations, and other agencies in the area. Support from sympathetic design practices and funders, including the Nationwide Foundation, enabled Granby to successfully establish a trust for the area, bringing it back into use for housing and arts residence. The CLT has now refurbished 10 houses, five for sale at a maximum of 80 per cent of market value and with restrictions on resale at a value linked to local incomes, and five for social rent, managed by the local Steve Biko housing association. Two additional houses are nearing completion, to be sold on the same basis as the others in the project.

Urban Institute

The Urban Institute is an international research centre at the University of Sheffield that examines how cities are responding to the challenges and opportunities of intensified urbanisation, technological innovation and resource constraint.

With critical social science expertise, we bring together the multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral knowledge needed to understand and support sustainable urban change in the UK and across the global context.

We develop conceptual and applied insights and promote debate through our research projects, publications, events and international networks. We engage with policy-makers, businesses, practitioners and community groups.

The UI is primarily supported through external research funding from the ESRC, EPSRC, JPI-Urban Europe, Mistra Urban Futures, Leverhulme and the Open Research Area.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

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For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 2221046