Why Communities and Community Led Housing has a big part to play in helping meet Suffolk's housing needs.
This week sees the launch of Eastern Community Homes.
Eastern Community Homes is a new community led housing initiative which will look to create an information hub to help provide expertise to community-led housing groups and other housing stakeholders. The aim is to increase the delivery of community-led housing projects across the East. We are the first county council in the region to sign up to the hub, but considering the importance of housing in our region, I'm quite sure we won't be the last.
Community led housing is where a community is deeply and fully involved throughout the process in making key decisions, like what is provided, where and for who. There are several types or models of community led housing including self-build and custom-build housing, co-operatives, ‘mutual’ and tenant management bodies, community land or development trusts and co-housing neighbourhoods. The type of model chosen really does depend upon the community themselves and the decisions they want to make. Community-led housing is different from the rural housing enabler programme which will continue, but builds on this experience and puts communities in the driving seat of any initiatives. There are hundreds of examples of community-led housing in urban as well as rural settings across the country and the hub will support the growth of projects in the towns and cities across the region.
Under Suffolk County Council's new housing approach, we want community led housing to be one of the options we consider when deciding how to best use our extensive land assets to help with Suffolk's housing needs. We have already worked closely with communities to help them deliver the housing they want to see. A great example was the Peek Close Site, which was formerly a County Council gritting depot near Lavenham. It was acquired from Suffolk County Council by the Lavenham Community Land Trust. Planning permission was granted in January 2017, to build 18 homes. These comprised of a mix of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom properties. Most were set aside for rent, with some made available for shared ownership.
But community involvement in local housing doesn't just have to be via community led housing. As part of our new approach to housing and the management of our land, we have reaffirmed our commitment to involving and listening to local communities, ensuring that we look to build the kinds of houses needed in that particular area, ensuring affordable, sustainable and high-quality homes are planned from the start.
I also hope that by working with local communities we will be able to use their wealth of local knowledge and lived experience to identify items and assets that will add real social value to the area. Now, this could be a wildlife area, public seating or public art installation, it really doesn’t matter what the actual social value item is, the important part is that the ideas will have been driven by the local community itself, they will have asked for it to be included and they will derive the social value from it as a result.
I believe that the diverse communities of Suffolk are really our biggest asset as a county. I have no doubt that the help and advice communities will find via the Eastern Community Homes Hub - to help empower them to examine their own housing and community needs, and help them bring those ideas forward for consideration and ultimately turn them into new homes, will be critical to delivering not only our housing ambitions for Suffolk, but also the ambitions of our district and borough colleagues.
If your community is looking for more support visit www.easterncommunityhomes.com.
The site has information on where an interested individual or group can register to receive further updates on community-led housing support with opportunities to join online networks and events.