Community Chest - Developing Physical and Social Assets

It is self-evident that for new homes to be built, land is required and in many urban areas land is scarce and competition to purchase it considerable. Sometimes buildings exist that can be transformed to be part of a cohesive community, but it requires investment of time and resources to bring about change. However, the most significant resource is people (the social assets) and the ways in which they can make things happen.

“We need to build a community chest and not leave things to a chance.”

Jeremy Porteus, Housing LIN

Councils and other landlords/owners can choose to lease empty properties to Community-Led Housing organisations at peppercorn rents enabling them to raise finance to buy long term empty homes. Plots of public land can be offered too.

Case Studies

Leeds Community Homes (opens new window). Leeds City Council has leased empty properties to CLH organisations for 99 years at a peppercorn rent, enabling them to raise finance to buy long term empty homes. Disposals at less than best value are unlikely due to budgetary constraints, but LCC can allow an exclusivity period on the sale of a council site to help a CLH project raise development funding. Leeds Community Homes is a Community Land Trust set up to develop new affordable housing, with a strong emphasis on engaging with the wider community and ensuring benefits for them as part of any development.

As most people are unaware of housing and community based models of collaboration, it requires the input of expertise and local knowledge to encourage groups and individuals to work together. Local authorities or social landlords may choose to employ ‘community connectors’ or to fund the community sector to employ suitable people to do this.

Case Studies

  • Bristol Community Land Trust (opens new window) has community-led housing enablers who support local people to engage in the process of developing housing.
  • Community Link workers: A place-based approach in York and Wakefield
    This report by the Coalition for Personalised Care sets out how be employing link workers helps build community capacity and help health colleagues to deliver greater personalised health, including links to social prescription. It found that community groups and local people often lack the resource to respond to the needs of the people introduced to them by link workers.

The ‘A Better Life’ programme run by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation illustrated how it is possible for people living in specialist older people’s accommodation such as sheltered and extra care housing to be isolated. Long term success in sustaining good housing and cohesive communities means building on the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm of people who are or will be, living in the homes/neighbourhood. There are several models that have evolved as ways of using existing skills and interests as well as enabling people to learn new skills:

A. Local Area Coordination – an approach to enabling people who are vulnerable and have support needs, to be linked to informal support systems based on their personal history, skills and interests. The aim is to provide alternatives to formal ‘care’ services in a way that promotes social connection and resilience and increases feelings of self-worth. Local Area Coordination (LAC) is being developed in several areas across the UK and there is a LAC Network to share information and evidence about outcomes. The significance of this type of model in a situation like the Covid-19 Pandemic is highlighted in a recent report – Which Way Next? How Local Area Coordination can help us beyond the crisis towards a better future for all.

B. Asset Based Community Development – an approach to the improvement of whole neighbourhoods and communities based on engaging a very broad base of people to build community capacity and produce ideas for improvement. The evidence suggests that to work ABCD needs to have some support from local institutions such as Councils to help marshal collective resources in ways that identify or find solutions to ensure progress is made.

C. Neighbourhood Coaching – an approach where individuals from local communities are recruited to assist fellow citizens to improve various aspects of their lives such as the environment, relationships, housing, employment, health and wellbeing. The intention is that ordinary citizens are more likely to be trusted and listened to than professionals.

  • Bromford Housing Association Neighbourhood Coaching (opens new window)
    ‘Everyday Bromford’ neighbourhood coaches work within the community to help customers and communities to thrive. With a patch of around 175 homes, they are able to develop relationships with each of their customers - relationships that are built on mutual trust and respect.

D. Neighbourhood Networks – An emerging model where a whole geographic area is covered by a number of networks that may vary in their form and function but have 2 key characteristics:

  • They are run with the involvement of service users within the network
  • They provide services and support to reduce social isolation and improve health and wellbeing.

Case Studies

  • Compassionate Neighbours (opens new window)
    Often associated with end of life care, Compassionate Neighbours is a growing movement of people who support each other to promote compassion in their communities. They can be matched to someone living locally and provide social and emotional support to them by visiting regularly, offering friendship, emotional support, provide a listening ear, helping them to do the things they like doing and helping them stay connected to the community as well as family and friends, as well as signposting to support for people living in their community, including in sheltered housing.
  • Leeds Neighbourhood Networks: Real Time Evaluation of Leeds Neighbourhood Networks Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
    There are 37 Leeds Neighbourhood Networks covering the city. Following the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, they adapted their service offer rapidly to meet the needs of people living in their communities, shifting their service to a more individualised offer of support e.g. provision of food and/or services or more personalised support for people with greater needs, socially and emotionally, including where people where digitally excluded.

Another example of this approach is Goodgym (opens new window), a network of groups whose members get fit by incorporating running into assisting people in their communities with a range of social and practical tasks:

“GoodGym combines doing good with running, which helps me forget I'm even exercising. It's great!”

Judy, GoodGym Lambeth Runner

Cohousing consists of an intentional community of private homes, located around some communal space and shared facilities. The concept originated in Denmark in the 1960s and 1970s, and became established across Scandinavia, Holland Germany and the US. Co-housing schemes are self-governing communities, managed by the people who live there.

The financial and legal structure can vary, with examples of homes being sold at market value on a long lease or let, with a members’ company or housing association owning freehold of the land; and other examples of members buying shares in a mutual company which owns the site and properties, and then contributing a proportion of their income on an ongoing basis, accruing more shares with time.

See useful resources on cohousing for older people here.

Schemes described as Homeshare or Shared Lives are arrangements where people are not family members choose to share a home based on mutual interests.

“I just love the feeling of having somebody around the house.”


Examples of these models include: 

  • Schemes that match an older householder with a 'homesharer' who can provide some support and companionship - often a younger person in housing need. The homesharer usually lives rent free but contributes to household bills and provides an agreed number of hours of support each week, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, transport and gardening. The older householder also benefits from regular company.
  • Schemes, such as Shared Lives Plus, that enable adults with mental health needs or learning disabilities to live with a family who can provide company, reassurance, support and, if necessary, liaison with relatives. Families can enable links with the wider community including opportunities for employment and learning.


Whilst not housing specific, ‘Timebanking’ is a way of formalising and forging collaborative approaches to scale up mutual support in the community. Members of their local timebank offer their services to be ‘bought’ by other members. Instead of being paid  money they earn credits each time their services are used. The credits can then be used to ‘buy’ services from  any other member of the timebank.

Welsh Housing Association, Bron Afon Community Housing, has secured funding from the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge (opens new window) programme to develop an innovative shared living template based which will be based on reciprocity.  

For more information see

For an example see