We must lay the foundations of community-led housing

For the last few years, the Wales Co-operative Centre has been laying the foundations for a community led housing movement in Wales. But, despite good progress, a cornerstone for the success of this new movement is still missing, writes Chief Executive Derek Walker.

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For the last few years, the Wales Co-operative Centre has been laying the foundations for a community led housing movement in Wales. But, despite good progress, a cornerstone for the success of this new movement is still missing.

Access to appropriate finance remains a barrier. Some community groups still struggle to raise the money to prepare development plans, to buy land and pay construction costs. This is perhaps unsurprising. It is hard enough for established businesses to raise capital but for community led housing groups it can be a mountain to overcome.

The Wales Co-operative Centre helps people come together to develop new co-operative and community-led housing schemes through our Communities Creating Homes project. The groups come in all shapes and sizes. Small groups of friends buying a house to share, leaseholders setting up a tenant management committee, community members buying local land on which to develop new housing, and people who want to develop sustainable homes with a small ecological footprint.

Covid 19 has meant even more people are exploring the approach as it can help make good quality housing more affordable. It also allows people to live in a way that builds relationships and reduces isolation.

Co-operative and community led housing is small scale in the UK but much bigger overseas. For instance, it makes up more than 20% of the housing stock in Sweden. And because of it being more familiar in Sweden, access to finance is less of a barrier. Banks prefer to invest in what they know, and unfortunately British banks do not (yet) know much about community led housing.

A revolving loan fund for community-led housing

We believe there is a strong case for Welsh Government to create a revolving loan fund to allow more groups to progress their schemes and reduce the delays. It is the biggest piece of the jigsaw that is still missing in Wales. Welsh Government has access to financial transactions capital funding from the UK Government. We are proposing that some of this funding is used to create a new fund for community led housing. It would be a loan fund, not a grant fund, and our modelling shows the fund could break even within the next ten to fifteen years.

The financial transactions capital money would be an ideal source of finance for this new fund and help meet the need for more affordable housing at the same time.

Community led housing can have a transformational impact on people’s lives and suits many people far better than more traditional types of housing. If you want to know more about community led housing or our campaign for a dedicated fund to support new schemes, please get in touch with our team – wales.coop and info@wales.coop.

The Wales Co-operative Centre’s Co-operative and Community Led Housing programme is supported financially by the Nationwide Foundation and the Welsh Government.

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