Greater Manchester Community-led Housing Network Launch

Several members of MUCH attended the well attended, and energetic, Greater Manchester Community-led Housing Network Launch, at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester on 8th December 2018.

This was the last in a series of events organised by Housing Futures through 2018, in parallel with research into community led housing in the UK and abroad, to find out how community led housing can hep solve the current housing crisis.

The event was opened by Sophie King of the University of Sheffield Urban Institute, who spoke about her work with community groups in Collyhurst, Manchester.

Richard Goulding summarised the Housing Futures research findings. As a result of the research, Housing Futures have published recommendations for stakeholders, identifying the following benefits:

  • income is kept within community-led organisations and reinvested for community use
  • urban reinvestment can be combined with affordable housing that stops residents being priced out of homes by gentrification
  • successful community-led projects generate positive neighbourhood outcomes for health and social wellbeing, environmental sustainability, and skills and employability
  • community-led housing groups can play a vital role in developing small sites for a lasting and valued legacy, with adequate support for land access from key partners

Paul Dennett, City of Salford Mayor and Greater Manchester Lead for Housing explained that Greater Manchester had lost over 90,000 homes since 1980 due to Right To Buy, while over 80,000 households are now on housing waiting lists. He spoke positively about Housing Future’s recommendations, including the continued development of a Greater Manchester Hub to support community led housing across the city region, which was independent of local government.

Manchester City Council’s Director of Housing, Jon Sawyer, outlined Manchester City Council’s approach, referencing a report on affordable housing (which was subsequently approved on 12th December), which set out a new vision for the provision of affordable housing across the city. Manchester is committed to initially supporting three affordable CLH developments totalling at least 30 homes, on council land, and subsequently unleashing the potential for more CLH, of all tenures, and including age-friendly developments. He emphasised that the social benefits of CLH to local communities outweigh the longer development time and smaller sites involved.

All speakers recognised that CoHousing could make a relatively small but important contribution to community led housing, especially in addressing problems of isolation for older people.

Following the talks, we were invited to take part in one of these sessions:

  • A workshop to plan the structure, role and functions of the new ‘enabling hub’ being established for community-led housing in Greater Manchester. This is now set to be launched in March 2019.
  • An introduction to Community Land Trusts, which can bring land and property into community ownership in order to secure affordable housing for current and future generations. Although CLTs are not a legal form in themselves (like a Company), they are defined in law. Transparency in Governance and accountability is essential from the outset, as is good legal advice on current and proposed changes to laws related to leases and Right To Buy. We discussed some successful examples of CLTs such as St Clements Hospital in East London which has been retrofitted as 23 affordable homes with a proportion of privately owned homes. A very diverse and inclusive project, it was built on a great deal of local community engagement.
  • A screening of a film about community-led housing in general, Peg Alexander’s documentary film ‘Britain’s Housing Crisis: A People Powered Solution?‘.  Peg talks to people involved in Lilac, ChaCo, CITU and Leeds Community Homes in Leeds and Granby 4 Streets in Liverpool.

Before leaving, we added our personal ‘next steps’ to a wall as we reassembled in the main hall.

Although this was the culmination of one series of events, it was emphasised that this was just the beginning of the next phase of support for community led housing in Greater Manchester.

Sian Richards
December 2018