The community led housing movement is growing across the country, with politicians from all persuasions articulating support for locally led solutions to housing need and neighbourhood-based regeneration. There has never been a better time to get your project off the starting blocks. For us in the Liverpool City Region (LCR), we are feeling particularly buoyant right now with the political support recently outlined to help unlock our movement and grow our sector.
On Thursday, June 23rd 2022 Liverpool City Council adopted a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) policy, which it hopes will start a grassroots revolution – enabling community groups in the city to breathe new life into run down areas or buildings, creating new businesses, homes and jobs for years to come.
At the heart of the policy is the radical concept of “social value”, where the social value of a community group’s business plan is converted into a monetary value which can then be used to offset the cost of stewarding council-owned land or buildings. By adopting this policy, it will allow these groups to use the commercial market value of the land or property (incorporating social value) to support their bids for loans or external funding. Something similar has already been rolled out by Bristol City Council.
The thinking behind the policy goes to the heart of Mayor Joanne Anderson’s triple-lock programme on equality, inclusion and environmental sustainability, which is aimed at placing social value at the heart of the council’s decision-making process. Mayor Joanne’s leadership in getting this policy approved, alongside the efforts of Assistant Mayor & Cabinet Member for Development & Economy, Cllr Sarah Doyle, has been nothing short of inspiring in addressing difficult challenges in the city.
Breaking Ground was pleased to have been invited by the Council to add a quote for the press release announcing this policy. I think it demonstrates the collective voice we have created around the community led housing agenda in a short space of time. Breaking Ground is the public face of a wide range of diverse projects right across Liverpool and the influence we have had on our local politicians is based on a true narrative of local energy, commitment and individuals at a grassroots level trying to make things happen. This narrative sat comfortably within the political agenda our leaders wanted to deliver for the city. It was that simple.
So how did we gain ground?
Breaking Ground (the Liverpool City Region community led housing hub) was established in 2020, with funding from Power to Change, to grow the community led housing movement in LCR. After 2 years of getting ourselves established, it’s clear to us that two key ingredients are needed to propel this sector forward and ensure its potential reaches all sections of our community.
Firstly, light touch hubs like Breaking Ground are critical to the success of the sector. Our existence means we are able to promote the understanding of community led housing at a grassroots level and provide practical, accredited hands-on support to help community groups turn their projects into reality. Without this, projects will fail, the sector will remain exclusive and small scale, and the potential ambition of the sector will be curtailed. Two years ago there were 13 projects in our region, today we are working with 36 groups and the interest is growing. This demonstrates our point.
Secondly, political and local authority support are essential to propel the sector forward. Policy support, such as the CAT policy approved in Liverpool, sets the framework for embedding this work strategically in the delivery of community led regeneration in our region. Enabling local authorities, who work with the sector to deliver the right support for them, is an essential ingredient for change that values local people at its heart.
Liverpool City Council’s CAT policy sits alongside the support the Liverpool Combined Authority has been signalling through their practical and pre-feasibility financial backing of projects across our region. What’s emerging is an important two-tier level of support for our community led housing projects, with each layer of authority delivering the bit they can in the jigsaw. Our desire is to see all six of our local authorities in our region following Liverpool CC’s lead, and we hope the overarching support of the Combined Authority is the glue that we believe will drive lasting change.
The Liverpool region has long been a hotbed of grassroots housing activity, but many of our trailblazing projects have emerged from places of struggle and from the margins, rather than being delivered with enabling support. I feel this narrative could be shifting, where community led housing could be seen as part of the DNA of how we do things here. Our movement in the Liverpool City Region has its moment and we intend to grab it.