How can community led housing help us build our way out of the recession?
A blog authored by the Co-Chief Executive of the National CLT Network, Catherine Harrington.
Even with all this talk of easing the lockdown, it’s still hard to believe that we’ll ever emerge on the other side of the pandemic and to think about what life will be like then. Will we return to our old ways or have we been brought to realise it was all unsustainable anyhow and we need a new normal?
One thing is for sure though. As the economic forecasters have made clear, we're heading into an economic recession. Whether it will be as bad as the 2008 crash or a lot worse is yet to be seen. But there are parallels to 2008. Mainly, that house building will play a key role in stimulating the economy to make a recovery, as it did then.
This week, the Housing Secretary has announced a series of measures to get house building back up and running.
Our argument to Government is that community led housing can and will play a vital role.
Our members have homes that are oven-ready. There are up to 23,000 community led homes in the pipeline and 10,500 homes in live applications on the Homes England system. Many of these homes were good to go and have been halted by the closure of the Community Housing Fund and the onset of the pandemic.
By getting these homes built, CLTs will be keeping local builders in business and people in work, boosting local economies.
Community groups have also been willing to take on sites that are seen as unviable by developers. As more developers turn their back on sites during this difficult commercial environment it will be communities who will be prepared to try and build on them.
Community groups are building homes for local 'heroes': the nurses, paramedics, delivery drivers, shop workers and others who have all been the heroes of this time.
They are building good quality homes that people want - the pandemic has brought into such sharp relief the effect of poor housing on mental health and family dynamics. There has never been a more important time to be building more good quality homes.
They are building truly affordable homes. It’s possible that a post-COVID-19 macroeconomic environment of higher inflation could impact on interest rates and mortgage repossessions. It is then all the more important that we build truly affordable homes so people can actually weather stormy economic times like these in the future and are not vulnerable to economic shocks.
And they are responding to the need for affordable rented homes. As Steve Watson and Alison Ward from the Wessex CLT Project said in their most recent newsletter, a recession will mean fewer people will be able to buy homes and there will be higher levels of unemployment and a cut in wages, both of which amount to more need for affordable rented homes. CLTs and community led housing can provide these homes.
Of course, it’s not just homes that community led housing groups have to offer. There are a staggering 860 active community led housing groups around the country. They are all playing a vital role in local communities and many have been a cornerstone of their communities during the pandemic, helping the most vulnerable with food supplies, medicines and social contact. During the pandemic, we've seen how critical those social and community ties are in helping all of us, and especially the most vulnerable, feel less isolated. It is vital after the pandemic that we build on these recently strengthened feelings of community and cooperation, and people can do that through community led housing.
So community led housing can play a key role. But to do so it is essential that the Community Housing Fund is renewed in the CSR. The Minister of Housing acknowledged as much himself in a reply to a supportive MP recently.
It was also recognised in the Housing Forum’s recent report to the Government on the post-COVID-19 recovery. That report included our asks for the CHF to be extended.
We're working hard on our campaign for the CSR, now postponed to the Autumn, and will be making this case to the Government over the coming months
If you've got thoughts on this you'd like to share with us we'd love to hear from you.