Local authorities can support the development of collaborative approaches to housing and community development in a number of ways. They may decide to start the whole process by initiating local discussions, shaping local planning priorities and offering resources such as land, staff and facilitation.
You can find details about how one Council is developing community-led approaches to housing for older people in this guide. Commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council and written by the Housing LIN, the guide captures how the Housing LIN worked closely with the elected members and involved local people, community organisations and staff to help shape the council's housing offer for older residents. It sets the scene and provides a range of useful background information on the main characteristics of living in Central Bedfordshire in later life and describes different community-led housing approaches and offers practical tips and examples that can help inspire local residents to shape the future provision of housing that meets their needs and aspirations.
Local authorities are in a good position to promote cooperation between groups in their community as they have an overview of their area and councillors are likely to know about the location and purpose of community groups, be aware of local history in terms of development and be well connected. Some councils have funded development workers to facilitate links between groups and areas. Housing associations also have a long history of engaging and working with local communities to meet a diverse range of housing need, including cohousing and Community Land Trusts (see below).
And, while not housing specific, The Carnegie UK Trust have developed a useful framework to support people and communities achieve positive change for themselves. It sets out a series of principles for achieving an 'Enabling State' (opens new window), which includes investing in disadvantaged communities, and giving people the rights, the permission and the tools to have more control over their surroundings and communities.
The Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network (CCIN) has produced a report on Community-Led Housing and provides several relevant case studies:
“Community-Led Housing can provide a way for local people to achieve their aspirations for an area. It fosters accountability and ownership and, in turn, helps to mobilise support for development. People who come together to decide what housing goes where and acquire a role in the ownership, stewardship or management of the homes, develop a strong sense of community.”Cllr Tony Newman Leader of Croydon Council Chair of the CCIN Housing Commission.
This report by New Local (opens new window) (formerly the New Local Government Network) evidences a range of community initiatives that have helped forge an expansion of community power in decision-making, collaboration and meeting community needs.
Under the 2019 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), local authorities are encouraged to signal their support for particular types of housing development through their Local Plan. For example, by:
- Mapping areas suitable for small housing developments that can meet specific local needs such as improving intergenerational mix, increasing access to affordable homes.
- Designating ‘Rural Exception Sites’ under the updated NPPF means that it is possible to give people with a local connection priority when housing is available for purchase or rent.
- Supporting the development of Neighbourhood Plans
- Creating Local Development Orders to set the planning framework for particular areas or categories of development.
- Produce Supplementary Planning Guidance to address the housing needs of a particular group in the community, such as older people or people with a disability.
At the time of writing, the government has issued a Planning White Paper (opens new window). It seeks views on mainly technical proposals to reform the planning system and to streamline and modernise it, improve outcomes on design and sustainability, reform developer contributions and ensure more land is available for mainstream development. However, there is no reference to housing for older people or community-led approaches.
For more on local planning homes and communities for an ageing population, browse the Housing LIN’s online planning portal.
Access to land
Local authorities may also own land that they no longer need. A political decision can be made to offer land at below cost to local communities for specific types of development rather than put the land on the open market. Other possible routes to access land include sites owned by social landlords such as housing associations or charities.
One of the features of community responses to Covid-19 has been the speed with which community organisations have adapted their services to meet the new circumstances. One way in which this was achieved was through the loosening of centralised regulation and adapting policy and practice quickly. A recent report by Locality highlights 4 key lessons for policy makers locally and nationally:
- Existing social infrastructure has been vital to the crisis response
- Well-functioning local systems have emerged in the heat of the crisis
- The role of community organisations as “cogs of connection” has been strengthened
- Community organisations have adapted at pace – but need support to meet the challenges of the future
The full report argues for more devolved decision making and a shift away from competition between community groups and organisations to a collaborative approach.