A very warm welcome to the Winter edition of the Homes of Our Own newsletter. We’d like to wish you all a very happy festive season and congratulate you on the progress you have made on your projects despite the challenging year that we have all had so far.
Over the Autumn we saw two major proposals detailing changes to the planning system which could have major impacts on the delivery of Affordable Housing across the Country, in particular in rural areas such as much of Wiltshire. We’re really proud that our partners have worked hard to respond to the consultations to support community-led housing.
In addition to this, we saw the Autumn 2020 budget, where the Wiltshire Community Land Trust supported the National Community Land Trust Network’s campaign to include the renewal of the Community Housing Fund in the 2020 Spending Review. You can read the WCLT’s response here.
We have been working hard to ensure that we can continue to deliver our services in the current circumstances and in the future. We have spoken with the Planning Team at Swindon Borough Council to provide more information about community-led housing and have invited them to support us to spread the word about the movement and the services that Homes of Our Own can provide.
The Homes of Our Own team are continuing to work from home and are still available to provide support to community-led housing organisations across the county.
We’re always looking for new opportunities to deliver much needed homes so if you’re interested in working with us, please get in touch.
Ian Crawley, CLT Technical Advisor
Finding a site is an exciting, but often frustrating, element of developing a community led housing scheme. There are a number of actions necessary for you to complete. Plus, options for you to consider. The order in which they are carried out can vary, subject to local circumstances, in particular, why community led housing?
Housing Needs Survey
These can be used as part of the preparation of a Neighbourhood Development Plan. They can also be used because of a recognition that up to date information is required on local housing need to guide Town or Parish Council representations to the District or Unitary Council for new affordable housing. They can also be used to then consider and support direct action, through forming a local community led housing group, such as Community Land Trust.
The covering letter for the HNS, to be delivered to every home, could include an invitation to propose land or building for a community led housing scheme, subject to the housing needs confirmed through the survey.
The results from the survey could also highlight the need for different types of accommodation, such as live/work homes or freehold bungalows. The latter could be built by the CLT group and sold to local people downsizing, with a covenant requiring eventual resale back to the group. An up to date Housing Needs Survey will be needed to support a planning application.
Homes of Our Own and Wiltshire Council can support you to complete a housing needs survey, more information can be found here.
Council owned sites
The Local Authority, Town or Parish Council may own land or buildings that may be suitable for the development of affordable housing. Councils may have small sites and under-used, sites that could be provided to a local community led housing group. You will need to ensure that you can evidence the benefits of your proposals to the Council, highlighting the increased availability of new affordable homes, that would not otherwise be provided. It is beneficial for a community-led housing scheme to have the support of the local planning authority and local councillors. Building good relationships with them can sometimes open up opportunities to discuss options for council-owned land.
Land can be gifted by local landowners to provide affordable housing for the benefit of the local community. Usually such an offer, from a land or property owner, is only made if the homes are then available in perpetuity to local people in housing need and cannot be sold.
Call for sites
Using local media is an effective way of encouraging landowners to come forward with sites which are potentially suitable for community led housing developments. It’s important when you carry out your call for sites that you make clear, that the new affordable homes are to meet some of the local housing need and that they can never be sold.
The call for sites for a community led housing scheme, is best done in advance of any call for sites as part of the Neighbourhood Development Plan process. The latter leads landowners to believe there is the prospect of market value through their site being formally identified for residential development in the Neighbourhood Development Plan.
An important warning is that there is no formal land use designation for community led housing. Some communities have tried designating sites for community use and then listed affordable housing along with other potential community uses.
Talk to the Local Authority
There are a number of different departments within the Local Authority who will have knowledge and information about potential sites and affordable housing development in your area. They include:
- Strategic housing
- Asset management
- Local Housing Authority
The Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA)
The National Planning Policy Framework requires local planning authorities to prepare a SHELAA to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and the likely economic viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period. For Wiltshire, it can be found here and for Swindon, here. As a part of the SHELAA, a call for sites is carried out.
The SHELAA is not a policy making document. It is simply one part of the evidence base for the Local Development Framework. Through the SHELAA, sites may be proposed by landowners, agents, town and parish councils as well as Council officers and elected members. Each site in the SHELAA is assessed based on the information available to the planning officers. Most sites have constraints and the SHELAA identifies the likely time period over which it is reasonable these constraints will be addressed.
Housing Associations in your local area may have sites in mind that they have not been successful in acquiring or where they have failed to obtain planning consent, due to local objections. Some Housing Associations received homes through a large-scale voluntary transfer of the Local Authority housing stock. As a result, they may have small pieces of undeveloped land or former or underused garage sites which are no longer needed, but too small for them to develop directly. Speaking to the Development Team within your local Housing Association could open up opportunities for sites suitable for community led development.
How to assess the suitability of a site for development
Once you have identified one, or a number of, potential sites you will need to assess the suitability of the site for development. Typical issues to consider are:
- Planning history and status
- Outstanding planning consents
- Section106 planning agreements
- Covenants or easements
The Homes of Our Own team can support you with carrying out a thorough assessment of the site. Combined with information from the landowner and local residents, this can help you to ensure that you’re choosing the right site for your community led housing development. Involving the landowner and local community will also help you to build and sustain strong relationships and ensure that the community is fully engaged throughout the development process.
If you would like to find out more about the support that Homes of Our Own can give you in identifying and assessing sites you can contact the team here.
Homes of Our Own is celebrating its first anniversary!
In September 2019 we formally became Homes of Our Own, the Wiltshire and Swindon Community Led Housing Hub. Following a successful launch event in October 2019, and despite the challenges faced by Covid-19 the hub has continued to develop ways to effectively support community-led housing groups across Wiltshire and Swindon.
Some of the key achievements of the hub to date include:
- Hosting a networking event for community led housing groups in Wiltshire;
- Engaging with Housing Associations to raise the profile of community led housing and Homes of Our Own and to encourage their involvement in schemes;
- Both Rebecca and Louise became accredited community-led housing advisors;
- Submission of the first CLH planning application in Wiltshire, which is in its final stages;
- The creation and launch of the Homes of Our Own website, an information centre for community led housing groups;
- Engagement with all the public land owners in Wiltshire to secure land for community led housing;
- Throughout the year we have been actively working to include community led housing in Neighbourhood Plans by responding to consultations and by attendance at a Neighbourhood Plan workshop for parish and town councils;
- Working extensively with Local Authority Housing and Planning Officers to ensure the letting of any community led housing in Wiltshire is in accordance with a groups objectives;
- Engaging with local communities through communication with town and parish councils and through Wiltshire Community Engagement Managers/Area Boards.
As 2021 approaches, we look forward to supporting even more community led housing groups across the county.
After much anticipation we were disappointed that the Community Housing Fund was not mentioned in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review last month. We understand from the National Community Land Trust Network that they will be undertaking further work to try and secure a proportion of the recently announced ‘Levelling up’ fund to renew the Community Housing Fund and support the development of community led housing schemes across the country.
Despite this, there are still options available for community led housing projects to continue to deliver homes in local areas. Below we have provided some details of potential costs that community led housing groups could encounter and how to meet these costs.
Throughout the stages of your community led housing project, whatever model or delivery approach you are working through, you will require funding. This may be a mixture of grants from local and/or national organisations, crowdfunding, community share issues, loans, mortgages and even using funds held by your Local Authority.
The initial stage involves setting up a steering group and deciding on a clear purpose and goals for the project, as well as choosing a legal framework for the group and developing a business plan. You will need to source funding to cover costs such as: –
- Training sessions for members of the management team;
- Setting up a website;
- Costs of incorporation, membership of a national body and insurance;
- Costs associated with public engagement and consulting on a project, this could include publicity materials, hall hire, refreshments, paper/printing/copying.
Once your group begins to investigate suitable sites for the project you may incur costs in scoping and undertaking studies that would be needed to support a new development proposal, as well as further public engagement.
At the plan stage you will be working towards submission of a planning application, you will need to engage professionals to draw up detailed plans for the proposed homes, communal areas and gardens, as well as other technical reports to support the scheme design. Planning permission may be subject to a Section 106 (Planning) agreement and you will need a solicitor to assist with this process.
During the build stage your group will hire a contractor to complete the development work and others may partner with a housing association at this stage of the process. Development finance in the form of grants and/or loans, and for some groups crowd-funding may be an option.
The final stage of the community led housing process comes when the new homes are ready for people to live in. The homes now need to be managed and maintained and groups will need to develop plans, policies and processes to do this effectively. The finance for this stage will primarily come from selling homes, through rental income and service charges.
For more information on sources of funding at each stage of your community led housing project please have a look at our factsheet Funding For Community-Led Housing.
We know that across Wiltshire and Swindon that there is still a shortage of housing that meets the needs of local communities. Despite the pandemic there is no sign that house prices or rents are decreasing – rather the reverse. This can mean that young people and key workers such as health workers, carers and teachers find it difficult to find somewhere they can afford to live in our communities. Primary schools, shops and pubs have been closing because families must move away.
There are now ways in which you can help solve this problem. Community-led housing, whereby communities themselves work out where and how they will meet local housing need, is successfully creating new homes up and down the country. So far across the country over 300 communities have built over 1000 homes, with thousands more in the pipeline. In Wiltshire several towns and villages are on their way to building new homes for local people.
Now in Wiltshire and Swindon, Homes of our Own has been established to help local communities build or provide homes themselves. We believe that people should not be forced to leave their communities because housing to meet the changing needs of individuals and families does not exist.
The Wiltshire & Swindon Community led Housing Hub, known as Homes of our Own, exists to:
- provide advice and support to community groups on setting up, engaging with local people and finding and securing the right site;
- bring in the technical expertise required to plan, develop and build homes;
- help a community build directly or with a development partner;
- help access the money required to get a scheme to planning and then build it;
- advise on managing and maintaining the completed homes.
Would you like to learn more about this? If so, we’d welcome you to join us in a special event organised to spread the word about community-led housing, and to hear from local towns and villages who have gone down this path.
There will be explanations of how community-led housing works, a full story of how it’s working elsewhere, and plenty of time for questions and discussion. We look forward to welcoming you to the event!
The event will take place online on Zoom on Thursday 25th February 2021 at 12pm. Get your tickets here.
 House prices in Wiltshire rose by over 5% in the 12 months previous to November 2020 according to Zoopla; rents increased by over 6% for the same period in the SW, according to Homelet.
 Homes of our Own is a partnership between Wiltshire Community Land Trust, Community First Wiltshire & Swindon, Wiltshire Association of Local Council, Wiltshire Council, and Swindon Council.
Community Information Champions is a new project led by Community First, in partnership with Wiltshire Council, Your Care Your Support Wiltshire and Wessex Community Action. The project aims to recruit, train and support a network of Community Information Champions across Wiltshire to help provide signposting to health and care information, local services and support as well as practical advice around key issues.
A Community Information Champion could be a member of staff from any organisation in Wiltshire or a local community leader or volunteer who is already in contact with local people through their work or voluntary activities. This could be as part of a formal service e.g. libraries or an information grassroots service such as a community cafe.
The overall aim of the Community Information Champions project is to ensure that all people across Wiltshire have access to good quality information to enable them to make the right choices for themselves, their families, friends and carers to live well and stay well for longer at any point in their lives.
As part of the project, Community First will be offering free Community Organising training and the chance to be part of a network of Community Information Champions across the county. For more information please view and download the Community Information Champions leaflet or contact Alex Neale: email@example.com.
Once the current national lockdown ends and we receive further updates from central government, we hope that community led housing groups and their communities will be able to safely meet in person in the not-too-distant future.
Community First is working with Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) to promote safeguarding as part of Village Halls Safeguarding Week 2020. ACRE was recently awarded over £100k from the National Lottery Community Fund to promote good safeguarding practice to village and community halls throughout England.
Community First supports a network of village halls and community buildings in Wiltshire and Swindon, through the Wiltshire Village Halls Association. The campaign was promoted between 16th – 22nd November 2020 to help ensure the voluntary management committees that run halls and community buildings have the knowledge and confidence to provide a safe environment for all.
Advice and examples of best practice were shared with local halls and buildings throughout the campaign week, so that they fully understand their responsibilities and have appropriate and robust policies and procedures in place.
The campaign is supported by Village and Community Halls Adviser Helen Akiyama, who provides advice and support to our network of halls and buildings across Wiltshire and Swindon. Helen will work with management committees to help them understand current legislation around safeguarding and make sure procedures are in place which reflect good practice.
Ultimately, Village Halls Safeguarding week aims to increase awareness of the importance of safeguarding and making sure that these important rural assets are welcoming and safe places for all.
For more information about safeguarding for village halls and community buildings, please see our dedicated village hall safeguarding page, with useful links and relevant contact information. For questions about the campaign or for general queries, please contact Helen Akiyama: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Community Led Homes Enabler Hub Grants Programme aims to expand the network of specialist regional organisations helping groups of local people to develop their own community led housing solutions. Funded by the Community Housing Fund from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). More information can be found at www.communityledhomes.org.uk/get-funding
- How to find your site
- Celebrating one year of Homes of Our Own!
- Funding for community led housing
- Community led housing event
- Free training
- Village hall safeguarding week
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