As a Wellbeing RSA ‘goal champion’, I believe that recent research about the potential benefits of living in that co-operative and/or community led housing (CCLH) shows how to develop and stimulate demand for the co-operative and community-led housing approach throughout Wales.
It is about local people playing a leading and lasting role in solving local housing problems, creating genuinely affordable homes in their own communities.
Residents living in CCLH schemes identified, in their own words, a range of 8 benefits that they have gained from living in their schemes, which included a better financial situation.
Assessing by type (% of answers) - Better financial/situation was 10%
They also felt supported and part of a cohesivecommunity, which helped to tackle isolation and loneliness. They also learnt new skills and felt empowered to help their local community.
• Resilient communities' agenda – living in a supported, well integrated community can reduce pressure on public support services.
It can empower local communities, helping them to become more self-reliant and resilient. Encouraging communities to become more sustainable and resilient, is a key feature of many community-led housing schemes.
Empowered communities make decisions about their areas, often leading to practical, self-generated solutions to local problems. Community-led schemes enable local people to remain in their area and help maintain the viability of their community.
This testimony around the difficulties of ensuring smooth relationships within CCLH schemes perhaps adds weight to a more general point made by a different (Welsh) interviewee, who felt that “cohesion and resilience are essential key starting blocks, as well as possible outcomes or benefits” of CCLH.
As they saw it: “I believe to make a housing co-operative work you have to have a group that has a strong sense of community. You need a critical mass of people to undertake the work, people who want to take on the responsibilities of a landlord or housing management. Not everyone wants this responsibility.”
Steve Jones (Dragon Housing Co-operative, Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant) saw the benefits being...
- Economic benefits – inability to get a mortgage and not wanting to be at the mercy of private renting; the ability to finance a home 100% ethically. It gave him the economic freedom to be self-employed and be able to travel for part of the year.
- Community cohesion – the opportunity to bring people together in public meetings to discuss concepts that they may not have heard of before and include everyone.
- Community resilience – being allowed and able to be proactive in setting up the housing co-operative, finding solutions within our own control.
“Sense of community; financial benefit (co-op as shared equity through rental payments so
anyone leaving gets capital asset to leave with); can live in an area where they work, have
schools and families close by; empowerment and feeling important; they have good quality
housing; independence; security; and family support.”
Despite the limited quantitative data relating to CCLH, there is a consensus in the research that it does lead to quantifiable hard outcomes. ‘The Business Case for Community Led Housing CLH) describes some of the key ones as follows:-
It can strengthen and help sustain local economies Community-led housing schemes often make use of local labour and can re-invest surpluses in the local economy to help maintain or improve community facilities and services. In rural communities this can mean bringing pubs, post offices and shops into community ownership. In urban areas where market failure is a problem, it can increase confidence in a neighbourhood, bring stability and help attract further investment.
Finally, there are three types of value CCLH can generate that are discussed in this outline value analysis: fiscal value (savings to the state), economic value (benefits which have an obvious economic value, such as volunteering, but which do not necessarily save the state any money); and social value (the wider benefits to the individual and society of a change achieved, as expressed in the form of the equivalent increase in income a participant would need in order to gain the same uplift in well-being as they have gained through that change – in this case, their involvement with CCLH helped generate gross fiscal benefit by providing opportunities for work, entrepreneurship and self-employment where there would otherwise be none.
I look forward to seeing to seeing what ‘Communities Creating Homes’ delivers in the new year, including the launch of Swansea Cohousing in the Spring of 2020, and many other CCLH schemes.
(David Palmer, FRSA lives just outside Abergavenny, and since 2012 he has been the Co-operative Housing Project Manager, & Co-Manager since 2018, working across Wales to promote social, financial and digital inclusion through a range of projects.
He has recently become an accredited Community Led Housing Adviser.