This case study is part of the LGA's Housing Advisers Programme which funds the provision of an independent adviser offering bespoke expert support to local authorities for a specific project working to deliver homes, reduce homelessness, or generate savings or revenues.
Across Greater Manchester, thousands of people need better, more affordable homes. Co-operative and community-led housing is a way for local people to play a leading and lasting role in solving housing problems, creating genuinely affordable homes and strong communities in ways that are difficult to achieve through the mainstream housing market.
There has also been a renewed interest both nationally and regionally in the potential for community-led housing to become a more mainstream affordable housing option, with significant funding being made available to try and enable this via the Community Housing Fund.
After being approached by a number of aspiring groups wishing to develop community-led housing, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) working with a number of partners has funded an initial six month pilot project to provide support and advice to such groups and explore the potential of community-led housing being a part of the solution to solve the region’s housing crisis, contributing towards meeting the Combined Authorities' target of 227,000 homes over the next 20 years.
The project aimed to deliver the following:
- Raise awareness of community-led housing in GMCA
- Prove there was demand for such provision
- Offer practical advice and support to any aspiring community-led housing groups
- Connect with established community-led housing groups
- Understand what was happening both locally and nationally to enable community-led housing
- Draw some conclusions and recommendations on the potential to grow community-led housing in GMCA
The Project Partners
- Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)
- North West Housing Services (NWHS)
- Irwell Valley Housing Association
- Housing Futures
- Housing Investment Fund
- Homes England
The project has been managed on behalf of the partners by Jo Bird and Sarah Hughes with NWHS being the lead contractor and accountable body.
Starting in September 2018, details of interested groups and potential advisers have been collected using an online form. This records the stage that the project has reached so far and what the group’s priorities are and for advisers, their history of working with community led housing. The survey has been promoted through the Housing Futures mailing list, Manchester Evening News, GMCA online and at housing events and conferences.
There has been interest across the GM region but there seems to be better awareness of the potential for community-led housing around the existing projects, the majority of which are in south Manchester.
Advisers working with project partners have been meeting with other authorities in the region to promote community-led housing and seek wider regional support.
A Community Housing Open Day is being planned for International Co-operative Day on 7 July, when we hope that existing projects will open their doors to those involved in new projects. It is hoped that the publicity for this event will draw in people who are not aware of the existing community led housing projects and inspire them to start their own.
Initial Demand From CLH Groups
Thirty two enquiries have been received to date, of which 15 are being actively supported by the project. Some of these are established groups who have been meeting for over a year and have clear proposals to progress and these groups are receiving support with detailed business planning and negotiation. Others are newer groups, recently registered and developing new ideas who are receiving training on the different forms of community-led housing and creating their project proposals.
The project has funded development of a questionnaire which helps groups to develop their proposals and priorities. By getting all members to fill in the survey separately, groups can see where they agree most and where they have differences in approach to resolve.
Twenty six advisers have registered with the project and completed a self-evaluation of their skills and a short CV. The skills and experience of the adviser panel includes finding property and land, democratic decision making, business planning, access to finance, quantity surveyor and valuations, registration of housing co-operatives, community benefit societies, community land trusts and writing applications to Homes England’s Community Housing Fund.
Some funding has been made available for GMCA advisors to attend the Community Led Homes Accreditation programme for community-led housing enablers, a training programme with four modules: Getting Started, Planning, Building and Living (Community-Led Homes is the new national partnership that will oversee a large proportion of the funding to build regional infrastructure to enable more community-led housing.)
A meeting of the adviser group to share skills and experience was well attended. Advisers are also working with the local authorities to help start up community-led housing groups where they don’t yet exist.
Established co-operative and community-led housing groups
Community-led housing already has a strong presence in Greater Manchester:
Tenant management organisations including New Barracks (112 properties), Windsor and Albion (157 properties) and SHOUT (102 properties).
Housing co-operatives from single shared houses (including Cordata, Equinox and PlanB) to purpose built (Homes for Change) and refurbished older properties (New Longsight, Sensible, Commonplace).
The UK’s first tenant and employee co-owned mutual housing society (Rochdale Boroughwide Housing with over 13,000 homes)
Twenty four existing housing co-ops and community controlled housing organisations were identified at the start of the project. Eight of these have engaged with the project with five planning to build or refurbish more homes.
Local and National CLH Support
Homes England launched the Community Housing Fund in 2018 with £163 Million committed initially to March 2020. This fund provides both revenue (feasibility) and capital (build) funding to exclusively support the growth of the community-led housing sector.
The project immediately connected up with the North West’s Homes England representative, Anne Siepp, with GMCA being the key point of contact.
Grant funding to support community-led housing is also available from Power to Change and Nationwide Foundation.
Loan / Equity Finance
GMCA’s innovative Housing Investment Fund, is keen to provide the development loan finance to support applications for capital grant. HIF have been a project partner from the outset.
Other sector loan funders, such as Ecology, Triodos, Unity Trust, Charity Bank, Co-operative and Community Finance are all keen to support funding the sector with longer term mortgage finance.
Community shares, loan stock, peer to peer lending and leasing from Housing Associations are other potential sources of finance to facilitate community-led housing.
Enabling Infrastructure / Hubs
More recently, Community Led Homes has been launched, which is a formal partnership between the major national CLH organizations and has been set up to support the development of the regional enabling infrastructure that will be required to facilitate more CLH across the country.
The Project is well connected up with most of the key players in the Community Led Homes Partnership, these being Confederation of Co-operative Housing, National Community Land Trust Network and Locality.
Notwithstanding this development, a number of regions have already set up enabling hubs to facilitate community-led housing, including in Leeds, London, Bristol and Birmingham.
The project also connected up with Housing Futures, a research partnership who were already carrying out their own extensive project with the aim of providing an in depth, critical analysis of the potential for community-led housing in GMCA.
Housing Futures were invited to be a project partner and have been sending a representative to project meetings and some of their members have joined the advisor network.
Housing Futures have also produced their final detailed report in December 2018 with a number of stakeholder recommendations including setting up a Regional enabling hub in GMCA.
The key aim of the project was to prove that there was demand for community-led housing in GMCA, and based on the initial work to date it is clear that there is an appetite within communities to take control of their own housing situation.
However enabling more community-led housing clearly needs the right support and infrastructure to facilitate the growth of the sector.
Given the national and local developments highlighted in the report, alongside the political will in GMCA, there would seem a great opportunity to set up a strong regional enabling infrastructure to build on this work to date and facilitate more community-led housing in GMCA.