How to do it

The reasons for starting-up a community-led housing group can vary from one scheme to the next.

For instance, a rural community may want to respond to a housing needs survey by developing its own affordable housing, or a group of people with similar needs may want to refurbish existing housing for themselves.

Or it may be that a building has become available in a city or town centre that could be redeveloped into affordable accommodation and contribute to the regeneration of an area.

Either way, the process of delivering community-led housing can be broken down into five key stages:

Group Stage

The group stage is arguably one of the most important elements of community-led housing as it’s what differentiates it from a more traditional approach to development. In other words, it’s what makes a housing development ‘community-led’.

There are three different starting points for a community-led housing group, including:

Existing community organisation
gets involved in housing for the first time or adds to their existing housing stock.

Developer
such as a local authority or housing association, leads a partnership to provide housing that incorporates a CLH element.

A grass roots group
which forms in response to local need or to deliver their own homes.

No matter how a group is formed, it will have to take the following four steps to have a chance of success:

Decide what its purpose is
Recruit more people
Develop a business plan
Incorporate the group

To find out more about how we can help you form a community-led housing group, please get in touch.

Site Stage

Sites can come forward in a number of different ways depending on whether you want to build new homes, or you might be looking for a building to renovate. The site stage should also highlight any viability issues in terms of whether the site is suitable including any constraints that have to be overcome both physically on site and in planning policy terms. Site options for building new homes could include:

Buying private land allocated for housing

Buying private land on the edge of a village

Buying or leasing public land

Being part of a larger development

There are different ways to secure a site including:

Buy it outright
Buy an option or conditional agreement, which gives you the right to buy it outright once you have planning permission
Lease the land on a long lease

Whatever your approach to securing a site it is important that:

You are clear about what you are looking for i.e. draw up a ‘site finding brief’ for your group and anyone helping you find a site.
You investigate a potential site thoroughly to ensure that the site is suitable for your development, that the finances stack up and that you can get planning permission.
You engage a solicitor for the conveyancing and other legal aspects of acquiring land and buildings, and an accountant to ensure the transaction is structured in the most tax efficient way.

To find out more about how we can help you find a site, please get in touch.

Plan Stage

The plan stage is all about working with a range of professionals to design your scheme and obtain planning permission. Only new builds, extensions and changes of use will need planning permission. If you are renovating existing residential premises, no planning permission will be required.

However, planning permission is only one element of ‘planning your scheme’. Part of the project planning process is figuring out what your ambitions are for the scheme and then matching this up with the reality of how to pay for them.

Understanding Planning Policy

Obtaining planning permission can be the make or break of a community-led housing scheme so getting the right professional support to draw up your planning application is vital. Architects and quantity surveyors can help you design your scheme in compliance with planning policy and planning consultants can also help smooth the way to gaining permission.

Therefore, understanding what policies are relevant to your site and the type of development you are proposing is crucial. There are three levels of planning policy that need to be taken into account:

The National Planning Policy Framework – This sets out the parameters for all planning policy and applies across England.
 
The Local Plan – This is produced by the local authority and sets out land use planning policies and site allocations for the borough or district in which you are based.
Neighbourhood Plans – These contain land use planning policies and sometimes site allocations, which could cover a neighbourhood, a village or even a whole town. They are produced by the community either through a Parish or Town Council or, a neighbourhood forum. Not every neighbourhood, village or town has a neighbourhood plan so you will need to check with your local authority if there is one in force where you plan to develop your scheme.
Engage early and often

As a general rule of thumb, the earlier and more frequent the communication with the key players, the better. Early engagement will help ‘bring people with you’ and help you plan to overcome any potential hurdles further down the line. This includes speaking to:

The local planning authority about what is possible in planning terms on your chosen site
Landowners – e.g. you may be acquiring a site from a local authority, which has specific requirements or conditions before the site is transferred
Neighbours to the site that may be affected by the development
Your group’s membership, to which the community-led housing group is accountable
The (wider) local community – community-led housing schemes tend to command significantly more local support than traditional approaches to development
Local Councillors – particularly those that may be involved in planning decisions

To find out more about how we can help you plan your project, please get in touch.

Build Stage

Depending on your approach, there are multiple ways that groups can build and / or acquire homes:

Build new homes from scratch
Buy existing homes
Renovate empty homes
Convert a non-residential building into homes

To find out more about different build options, please get in touch.

Live Stage

Now that you have completed homes they need to be occupied, managed and maintained.

The community-led housing group will need to consider:

Its approach to managing the homes i.e. does it want to be very hands-on and do a lot of the work itself, or does it want to contract the management (or certain elements of it) out to a partner such as a housing association or a managing agent?

If it has the right mix of skills and competencies on its Board to operate effective governance to manage housing

How it maintains accountability and effective communication with its members and the wider community

How it will manage lettings and sales e.g. how will the homes be allocated and will this be done by the group or by a partner using an agreed allocations policy?

How it will collect rents and services charges

How it will deal with complaints

To find out more about how we can help you manage your completed homes, please get in touch.

For more information,
contact
 John Heselwood

Email: john.heselwood@cheshireaction.org.uk
Phone: 01244 400222
Cheshire Community Homes

Cheshire Community Homes – a local hub to help community groups come together to build and renovate new housing that meets their needs.

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01244 400222
john.heselwood@cheshireaction.org.uk

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