At Cara Community Services we believe that Self-build offers part of the solution to a growing housing crisis in the UK. This option encompasses a wide range of projects from people trained up to create each other`s houses collectively; or low-cost route for married or single people; or a new community sharing spaces etc. People simply oganise themselves together to create the kinds of homes they want.
Self build has become an attractive option not only as a way of reducing costs or due to legislative changes but as 1 in 10 people have no close relatives or friends to turn to in case of an emergency ; In the past 15 years, the number of people aged 55-64 who are living alone has increased by 50% ; £2.5 billion = the estimated annual cost to the NHS due to sub-standard housing ; 3 out of 4 people would prefer not to buy a home built by a mainstream developer.
Being involved in a community self-build project offers many benefits. The chance to contribute towards your local area, a sense of belonging and the ability to influence local decisions all give a powerful sense of wellbeing. Residents of group schemes have also reported a greater level of trust in their neighbours and a lower fear of crime. This is in addition to the personal benefits of having a safe, well-designed home to live in, the new skills, friends and job opportunities that may be created.
Neighbourhood Planning & Community self build
Using Neighbourhood Planning and Community Rights can be a great way to create more opportunities for self-build and community housing. Some Neighbourhood Plans have specifically included policies to support self-build. Neighbourhood Development Orders and the Community Right to Build are also local planning processes which allow the community to designate particular forms of development and help to increase self-build opportunities. Other Community Rights include the Community Right to Reclaim Land could help to secure land or buildings for housing. This kind of approach can help community groups to compete with larger developers, as support from local people is essential for success. Visit mycommunity.org.uk for more information and ideas.
Community self-build projects may be set up and run by the people who are planning to live in them, or wish to create opportunities for others. Homes may be privately owned, co-owned or rented. The future residents are often involved in some stage of the project planning and design, but not necessarily. Different projects have different membership criteria and may require a certain level of community participation among members, both during and after the build phase, while others may simply be a place to live. For anyone with an interest in creating more dynamic, supportive, sociable and sustainable neighbourhoods, community self-build is a powerful grassroots tool.
The group may prefer to contract out some or all of the building work, meaning that the project can move forward quickly leaving the residents to do only the finishing touches. Practical construction work isn’t the only useful skill to bring to a project. When working as part of a group there are many other skills that will be invaluable – such as group facilitation, project management, book-keeping, minute taking, legal or financial expertise, environmental management, architectural design etc.
Providing affordable Housing
Community-led housing offers a range of different models which all aim to offer well-designed homes that are affordable for local people by reduce the costs of land and/or construction or subsidising the costs of buying into a scheme, while also having a long-term strategy to limit the price that homes can be sold or rented in the future. Models for affordable community-led housing include community land trusts (CLTs) – locally-managed organisations which hold land and buildings in trust for the benefit of the local community. CLTs are most commonly used as a route to create affordable homes for people with connections to the local area, and are particularly valuable in rural areas where young people are priced out of the property market by second homes and are finding it hard to stay in the area. There are now more than 170 CLTs in the UK. There have also been many affordable self-build projects across the UK run by dedicated organisations such as the Community Self Build Agency and occasionally by housing associations. These projects give residents the opportunity to benefit from learning new skills and developing greater self-confidence by building their own home. Housing co-operatives and mutual home ownership societies offer another mechanism to reduce costs of housing. Residents don’t buy or rent their own individual home but can instead buy shares in the co-op. The price of shares can be set at a level that is affordable for each member – for example as a proportion of the individual’s income, thereby keeping membership within reach of people on lower earnings. This model generally relies on having a membership with a broad range of incomes so that those on higher earnings can cross-subsidise the costs for others.
The idea of living more communally is growing in popularity. Co-operative housing involves the residents owning and/or managing homes collectively. The common theme is equality in decision making, with each member receiving one vote in all collective decisions. An alternative form of housing that is rapidly gaining popularity is cohousing. In fact, between 2012 and 2014 the number of new cohousing groups in the UK doubled. In this model, each household owns or rents its own individual home but there is also some element of shared space, which is owned collectively. Cohousing projects usually require residents to commit to a certain level of involvement in communal activities, for example preparing meals, undertaking maintenance or gardening work and attending meetings. This can create a sense of very close and active community, with the intention that everyone works for the common good. Cohousing may be particularly attractive for people who have additional needs. For people wanting to live more collectively, it can be hard to find the right place to set up a project using existing homes or buildings. Self-build allows a group to start from scratch and create the right balance of individual and shared space to suit its needs.
Start –up funding
To start turning a dream into reality, lots of support may be needed to ensure that the group has access to the skills, expertise and knowledge to develop a solid vision, strategy and business plan. There is some help at hand. A number of grant funding pots are available depending on the type of project you are proposing. It is generally easier to get funding for a project if it is run by, and for, the local community and has open membership. See for example the Community Buildings grants. You might also be able to find small pots of funding locally from charitable trusts and other philanthropic organisations.
Once you have a sound business plan then you should be ready to seek out development finance. Community self-build groups are commercial developers and in theory should be able to access development finance from a range of mainstream commercial lenders, such as high street banks. However they may find specialist lenders more sympathetic and suited to their specific needs. Examples of lenders or intermediaries that specialise in community projects include Triodos Bank, the Ecology Building Society, Charity Bank and Resonance
Local Authorities & self build
New self-build and custom house building legislation comes into force on 1st April 2016 and local councils will be required to keep a register of prospective self-builders and custom builders and to have regard to their register when carrying out their planning, housing, land-disposal and regeneration functions. Each register will be open to applications from both individuals and associations of individuals who at a minimum want input into the design or layout of their principal home. The Housing and Planning Bill goes further by requiring the same authorities that hold a register to ensure that there are sufficient permisioned serviced plots of land suitable for self-build and custom house building projects consistent with the demand on their register. Self-build groups that are looking for land are strongly advised to register their interest with their local planning authority. The more information you are able to give your council about the type of project you want to do, the more likely you will hear about suitable opportunities.
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