The role of Community Led Housing in achieving Wales’ climate contribution

As we head into the second week of COP26, the need for a global focus on minimising the impact of the climate crisis has been cast into sharp and welcome relief, writes Hugh Russell.

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Updates from Welsh politicians at the event have provided a useful opportunity to consider our role in this struggle, with Julie James, Minister for Climate Change, clear that, although Wales might be a small nation, “we can do an enormous amount”. In a week in which Sir Patrick Vallance has described climate change as a “far bigger problem than coronavirus”, it is clear that an urgent change in pace in how we address the issue in Wales is needed. Housing is undoubtedly an area for particular consideration in this rapid change to our behaviours, with the Welsh School of Architecture ascribing responsibility for 21% of Wales’ carbon emissions to existing housing stock.

With a push from Welsh Government on decarbonising Wales’ old housing stock and a commitment in the Programme for Government to build new low-carbon social housing, we appear to be on the right path, but there is more that can be done, not least by investing in the community-led housing sector. Firstly, this is because we are pushing at an open door with the people who are keen to live in this way: the Communities Creating Homes team’s annual survey last year found that 47% of those responding got involved in community-led housing principally because they want to live in a more environmentally friendly way. The pressure to change the behaviours of the general public doesn’t exist in the same way amongst those who are working to develop community-led housing; the pressure instead, is to facilitate their plans to live in a sustainable fashion, in affordable housing that matches their ambition for sustainable lifestyles. This is not just some unfettered daydream on the part of those looking to create community-led homes: there exists considerable precedent for the success of community-led housing in achieving low-carbon ambitions.A brand new report from the Community Land Trust Network

has found that of a random sample of CLTs in England, the majority are set to outperform both UK and local government targets, some by a considerable margin (a number of examples were set to save around £700 in annual energy running costs compared to ‘typical average households’, indicating both the benefits to be found in reduced carbon emissions as well as the savings to be made for those living in community-led housing). Elsewhere, we know that countries with well-developed community-led housing sectors are making great strides towards net-zero housing

: during a recent presentation to our CLH Fest from a representative from the Netherlandswe heard about community-groups there being supported to deliver net-zero and even carbon positive housing. A revolving loan fund is provided to citizens of Amsterdam seeking to develop low-carbon community-led housing and this is expected to be made available across the Netherlands, imminently. With plans in Wales from Community Groups like

Bedwen Fach, who are seeking to make use of Wales’ unique One Planet Development policy, the likes of Tir Cyffredin who are working hard to improve the energy performance rating of their co-operative home in Machynlleth, or the proposals from Gwyr Community Land Trust who are progressing their vision to deliver “permanently affordable, low impact, climate positive, beautiful houses” in the area that they live and work in, we are starting to see real momentum from communities looking to contribute to a more sustainable way of life. With the right support from Welsh Government and local authorities, and ongoing assistance from the Communities Creating Homes team, we are confident that community-led housing can be a major contributor to a more ecologically sustainable Wales.

The Communities Creating Homes Monthly Network meeting for November is focussing on the issue of Community Led Housing and Climate Change and anyone with an interest in the subject is welcome to join us. We’ll be joined by two experts to help us understand the challenges and opportunities of a decarbonising world as we head towards a zero-carbon economy. Paul Allen from the

Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain project and Trish Andrews of the Association for Environmental Conscious Building. Please sign up at the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wales-community-led-housing-network-tickets-131022416575