Community Housing Projects

There are generally four different styles of community housing 

1. Self Build


It enables people on low incomes to build a home – either for rent, part ownership or full ownership. By working as part of a group costs are minimised

You get to know your neighbours as you do it

You can influence the wider area too – so you might also include communal play areas for your children, allotments or other features as part of the overall scheme

You often learn construction skills that may improve your chance of securing a job in the building industry afterwards


It can take time to get a group together, and to get a clear consensus on how to use a larger site; sometimes there can be disagreements that are tricky to resolve

It can be difficult to raise the finance to buy a site or to get funding or a donated site via a social landlord. Sometimes projects also need grants to be secured to make them fully viable and this can be challenging

Some people may let you down – for example they may not ‘pull their weight’

You will have to commit to work typically 20 hours a week for 46-60 weeks

To get a group going?

Approach the Community Self Build Agency to see if you can get a group off the ground in your area (or join one that is currently being formed). You may also need to secure support from a local housing association/social landlord.

If you are a group of people with existing construction skills, you might want to work with D & O Management Services Ltd. This is a private company that project manages schemes like this.

Find a suitable site that a local authority or a social landlord can donate or acquire on your behalf. Sometimes land can be made available via a Community Land Trust.

Decide among your group how you are going to structure the finances and if you want to build homes to own, part-own or rent

Work with an architect to agree a plan for the overall layout and design of the homes, and the layout of any roads or communal facilities.

Decide the ‘rules’ for the group – for example how many hours you will all put in each week, any eco-targets you want to achieve, any deadlines for completing homes, the budgets you will all work to, etc.

2. Cooperative

There are several different kinds of coops:

Rental or leasehold coops are democratically run organizations of tenants that equitably share costs of renting or leasing a building owned by someone else. Rental coops may share part of the management responsibility and often have more power collectively than single renters leasing from a conventional landlord. Nonprofits can also buy a building and rent it out to lower income folks who might not be able to afford shares. Sharing a house can offer big savings and can help people avoid foreclosure.

Market rate coops are houses, apartment buildings or other groups of housing units that are organized under a democratically managed corporation in which residents purchase shares at a market rate. Shares cover the costs of a blanket mortgage, rainy day reserves, maintenance and other operating costs, insurance, tax, etc. Units are resold at market rate.

Limited- or zero-equity affordable housing coops receive grants and government subsidies to make coop shares more affordable to low-income people. They keep the housing permanently affordable through legal restrictions on the amount of gain on a future sale of the coop share. Often these are organized groups of low-income tenants that agree to collectively buy the building they already rent through a non profit, usually a land trust that holds title to the land and takes it off the speculative market. It’s a great way to make permanent gains in the fight against gentrification.

3. Community Land Trust (CLT)

Community Land Trusts are a form of community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets. CLTs act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area, not just for now but for every future occupier.

There are now over 225 Community Land Trusts in England and Wales, and the sector has grown six-fold in the last six years. The largest Community Land Trusts have over 1000 members each. Community Land Trusts have developed over 700 permanently affordable homes to date and will have developed a further 3000 homes by 2020.

The community is integrally involved throughout the process in key decisions like what is provided, where, and for who. They don’t necessarily have to initiate the conversation, or build homes themselves.

There is a presumption that the community group will take a long term formal role in the ownership, stewardship or management of the homes.

The benefits of the scheme to the local area and/or specified community group are clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity

4. Cohousing

Cohousing communities are intentional communities, created and run by their residents. Each household has a self-contained, private home as well as shared community space. Residents come together to manage their community, share activities, and regularly eat together.

Cohousing is a way of resolving the isolation many people experience today, recreating the neighbourly support of the past. This can happen anywhere, in your street or starting a new community using empty homes or building new.

Cohousing communities can be inter-generational, welcoming anyone of any age and any family structure, or specifically to cater for people who are older or are communities of common interest, for example for women or LGBT groups.

Cohousing communities are formed on the basis of a set of six principles

  • Participation is a feature of the design of the community so that it meets their needs. A well-designed, pedestrian-oriented community without significant resident participation in the planning may be “cohousing-inspired,” but it is not a cohousing community.
  • Neighbourhood: defines the physical layout and orientation of the buildings (the site plan) encourage a sense of community and social interactions. For example, the private residences are clustered on the site, leaving more shared open space. The goal:  create a strong sense of community using physical design choices.
  • Common Facilities: are designed for daily use, are an integral part of the community, and are always supplemental to the private residences. Participating in the community is always optional, not required.  Since the buildings are clustered, larger sites may retain several or many acres of undeveloped shared open space.
  • Management: is by the residents, who also perform much of the work required to maintain the property. They participate in the preparation of common meals, and meet regularly to solve problems and develop policies for the community.
  • Hierarchy: does not exist, although there may be leadership roles, however no one person (or persons) has authority over others. Most groups start with one or two “burning souls.” As people join the group, each person takes on one or more roles consistent with his or her skills, abilities or interests. Most cohousing groups make all of their decisions by consensus or similar forms of consent decision-making and, although many groups have a policy for voting if the group cannot reach consensus after a number of attempts, it is rarely or never necessary to resort to voting.
  • No Shared Economy, as the community is not a source of income for its members. Occasionally, a cohousing community will pay one of its residents to do a specific (usually time-limited) task, but more typically the work will be considered that member’s contribution to the shared responsibilities.



December 2017

Anthony Kimber lives in Rye and contributes to the community as Chair Rye Emergency Action Community Team, President Rye Royal British Legion, Chair Friends of the St Mary's Church and Vice Chair of the Rye Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. In recent years he has worked as a consultant on risk and resilience issues. He has experience as a strategic planner in Whitehall and abroad and has attended several seminars on Neighbourhood Planning.

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