Wyre Forest District Council Community Led Housing Policy

1.     General

1.1   This policy updates the earlier adopted Wyre Forest Council Community Led Housing Policy, which was published in February 2018. The policy will next be reviewed in 2022 to ensure that it remains current and relevant.

1.2  The CLH Policy is relevant to all officers of the Strategic Housing and Planning Policy teams within the Economic Prosperity and Place Directorate.  Although the Policy is essentially focused on the provision of housing, it is equally relevant to the Planning Policy team who are responsible for ensuring future housing needs are met and incorporated into the emerging Local Plan.

1.3  The Council recognises that there are many situations where there is a shared or complementary role with other agencies.  Relevant officers within the Housing Section will seek to work collaboratively with national and regional organisations who are leading on the CLH agenda.  Agencies including the National Community Land Trust Network and UK Co-housing Network  will be working together as they disseminate information and policy updates from central government as well as taking a lead on national ‘good practice’ training and events for local authorities who have received Community Housing Fund grants. We will also work with local organisations including the Worcestershire Community Led Housing hub, community groups and Registered Providers.

1.4  The Council also recognises that it has to have a flexible policy that responds to government housing strategy. CLH is currently seen as a viable method of increasing the supply of housing and at the same time, making a real impact on the lives of the communities who are delivering it. As government priorities change in the future, CLH may not receive the same level of support, but the Council will endeavour to continue supporting any groups or individuals (self-build or custom-build) who have taken an interest in delivering their own housing.

1.5   The Council will also work closely with neighbouring Local Authorities to deliver housing numbers and will work particularly closely with those Local Authorities who have also received CLH grants from the Community Housing Fund within Worcestershire.

2.    Links to Other Strategies

2.1  The Council recognises that the CLH Policy will primarily work to meet the relevant objectives with the Worcestershire Housing Partnership Plan and will complement the Wyre Forest Empty Homes Strategy.

2.2  The CLH Policy supports the Worcestershire Housing Partnership Plan to:

  • Maximise delivery of good quality housing of the right type and tenure by co-coordinating the activities of housing providers and support agencies to meet existing and future housing need in a sustainable way.
  • To build new homes.
  • To investigate alternative models of affordable housing delivery to meet the housing and support needs of specific groups and sectors of the housing market.

3. Purpose of the CLH Policy

The Policy has been developed to:

  • Alleviate issues around housing affordability in the District by contributing to the overall delivery of housing
  • Enable our communities to realise their potential and take forward their own small scale housing schemes
  • Recognise the self-build and custom build community and put in place mechanisms to support the housing aspirations highlighted in the District’s Custom and Self-build Register
  • Raise awareness of CLH and encourage it’s delivery through putting a range of support structures in place to enable schemes to progress from the earliest opportunity.

4. Principles – The definitions of CLH

For the purpose of this policy, the Council recognises the following models of Community-led Housing:

a)    Self-build and custom-build housing
Self-builders usually build their own homes or enlist somebody else to customise a build to meet their needs. 

b)    Self-help Housing
Bringing empty properties back into use.  It usually involves people working together with a shared goal of solving a local housing issue.  It may also involve a renovation project where a redundant building is transformed into homes by an involved group of local people.

c)    Community Land Trusts (CLTs)
CLTs are set up by local people in areas with a shortage of affordable housing.  The local community take a lead role developing homes and other community assets.  The CLT will work to ensure that the homes are genuinely affordable, based on average local earnings in the area.

d)    Co-housing
These are intentional communities designed to live partially independently but with an element of shared resources/accommodation. By creating a more neighbourly community, the social benefits are thought to have a positive impact on quality of life.

e)    Housing Co-operatives

A Housing Co-op is a housing organisation where members (tenants) democratically control and manage their homes. Co-ops often have an impact on the sense of a community in the area and this can lead to reduced anti-social behaviour and higher levels of satisfaction.

As can be seen above, there are a number of different models for community led housing. The following key principles in this policy however should be integral to schemes. 

  • The community should be involved throughout the process in key decisions such as what is provided, where, and for whom. The community does not have to initiate the proposals or build homes themselves.
  • The benefits of the scheme to the community (whether that’s a local area or specified group) should be clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity if possible.

Community Led Housing is also not just about new build, it is about new models by which the community can have more of a stake in existing homes, and this can be achieved by the community having varying degrees of influence over how their homes are managed. Therefore, community led housing could encompass the following:

  • Development of new homes
  • Conversion of existing properties to support community led housing opportunities

5. Identifying and implementing solutions to increase Community Led Housing

The Council’s main objective for CLH is to encourage learning about CLH and increase provision of small scale affordable housing in the district by:

  • Employing a designated officer to lead on CLH delivery. They will work in partnership with Registered Providers, Parish and Town Councils, Community Land Trusts, Cohousing projects and self builders to offer advice and support and encourage small scale CLH schemes within the District. This will be done by enabling groups to make contact with the niche social investment banks, building societies, solicitors and architects who have expertise in the field of CLH.
  • Provision of the WFDC ‘First Steps’ grant to enable early stage financial support to check site viability and fund any surveys that may be required (subject to availability of resources).
  • Supporting applications for funding to external grants and trusts. However in doing this, the Council needs to be satisfied of the following
    • the organisations ability to deliver and sustain any proposal
    • Key outcomes of the proposed scheme.
    • The creation of community led housing schemes;
    • The provision of greater empowerment for local communities and neighbourhoods; and
    • Increase in affordable/specialist housing to meet local needs.
    • Strong governance arrangements by operating through open and accountable, processes. That the skills and capacity exist within the organisation, or are available to the organisation or clear plans as to how this will be achieved to undertake the project

In addition the Community Led Housing Co-ordinator will develop an effective communication strategy by;

  • ensuring the Council’s website content is updated  to inform interested parties about the different models of community-led housing and current / forthcoming funding opportunities
  • create an information leaflet as a brief reference guide for CLH and how to register interest
  • utilise social media to promote CLH

The CLH Co-ordinator will oversee the ongoing development of the custom and self-build register through the Local Plan process, work closely with the Strategic Housing team to identify long term empty properties, housing needs and consider their viability as CLH sites and explore opportunities to support CLH through identification of resources if available.

The CLH Coordinator will consider the mechanisms by which allocations to CLH schemes, built with any form of public subsidy, are made – both in terms of first letting and also re-lets. The use of Local Letting Plans (LLP) for first lets should be considered in line with the current approved policy on LLPs. The approach to managing allocations is to be further developed in consultation with the Council and the relevant Community Led Housing organisation.

6. Related Policy Documents

  • The Worcestershire Housing Partnership Plan 2017
  • Wyre Forest District Council Empty Properties Strategy 2017 – 2022

This Policy is available to the public on request.

Any comments about the Community-led Housing Policy can be made to the Head of Strategic Growth via the CLH Co-ordinator.