Community-led housing is an umbrella term for housing models which involve residents and communities having central roles in the development and management of housing. They are sometimes referred to as collaborative housing.
Although not all community-led housing models are focused on affordability and wider social benefits, many housing projects do include these as they are key features. At World Habitat we particularly value the types of community-led housing projects that not only benefit their residents, but also respond to global challenges such as introducing anti-speculative measures, supporting vulnerable communities, and responding to the climate emergency.
Community-led housing models are delivered in three main ways:
- Group-led: Grassroots groups responding to housing need or demand, or people seeking to deliver their own homes or change the model for their existing homes. Housing groups usually come together based on a geographical connection – for example, being part of an existing neighbourhood – or decide to come together through something else they have in common, such as shared values or having similar needs.
- Extension of community-based activity: Existing community-based organisations with local roots decide to include housing in addition to their current activities.
- Developer-Community partnership: A local authority, landowner or social housing provider that wants to provide housing that benefits the local area permanently can partner with local people to organise through a community body. The aim is typically for this group to take over ownership, stewardship and/or management of the homes.
The resulting housing can take different shapes and forms – from new-build, regeneration, and the use of existing buildings, or re-blocking an existing settlement.
Community-led housing can also deal with existing homes which aim to go from their existing status (for example occupation without formal tenure rights) to a new type of model which responds to resident needs.
The process of developing community-led housing can take many different forms including formal models such as cooperatives, Community Land Trusts, Mutual Home Ownership Societies, co-housing, and more. Some community-led models are developed using fewer formal models and share roots with traditional and indigenous ways of collectively managing land. These might not be fully formalised and recognised into a legal structure but effectively provide valuable community-led models. Other community-driven aspects related to achieving housing can also include community savings and other community-based mechanism to raise finance; community-led data collection, mapping, and research; decision-making over choice of legal model and/or design; negotiations with local authorities; and participation in the construction process.
The types of model and strategies typically chosen depend on the needs of the community, availability of resources, location, and existing legal frameworks.