Community Think Tank
Community Led Housing: Unlocking the Potential of Community Action
6th-7th February 2018
Trafford Hall, near Chester, CH2 4JP

The idea of community- based, housing provision is as old as shelter itself. It is the most common way for traditional rural and small communities to meet a basic need by providing it themselves. But in a modern urban society where most systems are big and fast moving, it is hard to make community- led housing work, particularly in low-income communities, to help low-income people, desperate for a home. Our biggest housing problem is providing enough truly affordable housing.

Community-led housing has strong appeal. It can complement the work of big social landlords and, in fact, it is sometimes directly supported by them. It also seems to offer the chance for young people to contribute to solving their own housing problems rather than wait for some magic solution to appear. Many politicians, including the Mayor of London, and many housing specialists support this idea, even though it only adds a few homes at a time. One driver is the growing realisation that large-scale development requires big sites, up-front, large investment, pre-sales (often abroad) and complex planning. While a large site and a single investment may add 500 or 1000 homes, only 200 will be affordable.

The drive for self-help is instinctive in all levels of society. Accessing decent housing in a secure community environment is becoming more difficult, so many groups work on a small local scale to solve local housing shortages.

At the same times, small builders, small housing organisations and groups, small sites and clusters of housing, offer more flexibility, have lower overheads, and can end up cheaper because of uncounted community inputs.

There are many examples of small community-based housing organisation from TMOs that take on limited housing management responsibilities for their local area or estate, to Community Land Trusts, that acquire a site and create affordable homes for their members, while retaining an ownership stake in the site so that individuals cannot profiteer. There are also many small, community based housing associations and ownership co-operatives which operate successfully without the ambition to become big and therefore more remote. They all help supply; they all have a strong social purpose and they all adhere to a ethos that values the small, local, and community focused orientation.

If the thousands of small organisations all grow a little they can make a significant difference. So what help do they need to expand what they do? What are the barriers to success? They should fit more easily within our pressured urban environments if government and leading housing organisations smooth their path and offer support.

This Think Tank will explore the many challenges facing community-led housing and propose policy changes to help community-led housing organisations deliver on their promise.



 Community Think Tank

 Community-led Housing:

Unlocking the Potential of Community Action

Trafford Hall, near Chester

Tuesday 6th– Wednesday 7th February 2018


Chaired by Marianne Heaslip


Tuesday 6th February  








Registration, tea and coffee (please bring your own lunch)

Session 1:  What is community-led housing

–       A brief history of community-led housing

–       Different shapes and sizes of community-housing

–       Key ingredients of community-led housing

–       Who does it help? Can it broaden its base?

–       How does it fit with neighbourhood planning?

3.30pm – 4.30pm








Session 2:  Which models of community led housing work?

–       Key ingredients of TMOs, Cooperatives, Community Land Trusts, CBHAs etc.

–       Some useful examples

–       What works for what purpose?

Table discussion: What participants think about different models


Refreshment break




Session 3: Building membership, involving people, finding local support

–       How many people do you need to develop a community-based housing organisation?

–       How big a time commitment is it? How long does it take?

–       Who wants to get involved?

–       What are the barriers to involving the community? How to overcome them?

–       Working with local agencies – the value of community anchors


6pm -6.30pm


Free time


7.30pm – 8.30pm Evening debate – “Community involvement in housing is a fashion to save money, it’s too hard work”. Discuss




Wednesday 7th February








Session 4: Delivering community-led housing in practice

–       Different legal structures –  choosing a constitution

–       Working in partnership with housing associations

–       How community land trusts work

–       How they differ from cooperatives and TMOs

–       Where to go for advice

Table Discussion: Getting a group together – what are the arguments in favour and against community led housing

10.15am-11.15am Session 5: Reclaiming the existing stock

–       Why communities now fight to stay put

–       Can community led housing help?

–       Retrofitting empty homes

–       Reviving streets and neighbourhoods

–       Regenerating estates without displacement

–       What about the energy efficiency and cladding problems?

Table Discussion: “Why do landlords, developers and councils neglect existing property? Why is it so important for existing communities?”



Tea and coffee

Session 6: Building new homes – the potential of small sites and infill

–       How to find and secure land?

–       Challenges and potential of the self-build model

–       People-orientated design

–       Taking care of the local environment

Table discussion: Why is this model so slow and difficult? Who can help?




Lunch and visit to Trafford Hall’s grounds and environmental measures

1.30pm-2.30pm Workshop: Overcoming hurdles, finding solutions

This is a special session giving people, in small groups, the chance to tackle specific problems they want to solve to help community led housing grow. Who can help?




Feedback forms

–          Brainstorm on role for local authorities and housing associations key messages to government



We welcome anyone interested in this topic. Places are limited, so please book as soon as possible. To see the programme, follow the link:

  • £150 per participant, including B&B accommodation and all meal. Second or further participants from the same organisation pay £100
  • £50 for participants from small unsponsored community-led housing groups
  • £75 for participants from small community-led housing associations (less than 500 units)

If cost is a barrier, please let us know as soon as possible and we will try to help. We have a limited fund to help with travel, so please ask if you cannot manage the full cost.

Travel details: Trafford Hall is a short taxi ride (approximately 15 minutes) from Chester train station. Direct trains take approximately 2 hours from London Euston. Regular trains run from Warrington, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

NB: Please look out for other Think Tank participants when queuing for taxis outside Chester station to share a ride.

The Housing Plus Academy reflects the diversity of social housing among our staff, tenants and customers because we believe that diversity gives us access to better ideas, innovation and solutions.  Recognising the benefits of diversity means that we would like to invite more people from a wide variety of backgrounds to join us.  So, for example, if you have a different thinking style, are from an ethnic minority background, are younger, or perhaps you have a disability, your experience will be invaluable in keeping us current and relevant, and will be welcome.




More details to follow.  Please contact

Click here to Book now >>