Faced with the threat of their community being broken up and the people being forced to move from their homes in inner-city Liverpool, local people came together in 1978 to keep their community alive and improve the bad housing conditions in the area which they lived. Through tenacity, commitment and much hard work they provided good quality and affordable rental homes, as well as improving the commercial, physical and economic prospects in the area. Twenty-five years later 400 rented houses have been provided, 250 permanent jobs have been provided in business enterprises, $45 million of assets have been created and $180 million of inward investment attracted. A range of local older persons’ and recreation facilities have been provided and these are all owned and managed by the local community. Derelict and polluted land has been restored to form an attractive and secure living environment and the community now provides support and advice to other communities worldwide wishing to improve their housing conditions and have a greater say in their future.
Aims and Objectives
The main aims and objectives of the Eldonian group when it formed were to:
- keep their community together;
- provide good quality affordable housing in a decent environment;
- have a say in how and where they were to live.
Housing conditions in the Vauxhall area of Liverpool in the 1970s were extremely poor and continued to decline throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. The area had the largest proportion of low demand housing stock of any UK city. High levels of unemployment were experienced as the major employers in the area closed down – the docks went into decline and sugar and tobacco factories closed. In 2001 the area was still ranked as the sixth most deprived ward within the whole of the UK.
In 1981, the closure of the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery provided a site large enough to accommodate the Eldonians’ vision for local houses. Having obtained the necessary financial support the site was cleared, de-contaminated and landscaped with 145 new homes designed and allocated by the local community. Each house and garden layout was designed to the requirements of the person moving in. The Eldonians also provided support to a small group of elderly residents to provide their own bungalow accommodation. A further 150 social rental houses were completed by 1994. The canal running through the site was cleaned, decontaminated and landscaped and brought back into active service. A small office complex was also built as well as a residential care home.
The Eldonian project has been developed in three main phases:
- Phase 1 – provision of social housing and associated elderly care and administrative accommodation.
- Phase 2 – the development of local facilities, training and jobs.
- Phase 3 – moving beyond the boundaries.
To date 1,200 people from the local area have been housed in new social housing, 800 people have moved into new private sector housing (private builders being willing to build for sale here directly as a result of the Eldonian Village).
Having recognised that social housing is only a starting point for the development of a sustainable community, the Eldonians decided to work at delivering much wider economic and community led regeneration. A development trust known as The Eldonian Group was established. This raised funds to employ professional staff and set about developing commercial, physical and economic projects in the area. Over the last 15 years it has developed a community centre, a 50-place day nursery, a sports centre and a neighbourhood warden scheme. A range of similar projects are now underway as Phase 3 – building on their existing good practice and taking it outside of the Vauxhall area. These include a Social Enterprise Development Service, a masterplan for the entire Vauxhall road corridor, a retail development project and an enterprise park with industrial units and managed workspace.
All the achievements of the project have been as a result of community action and cooperation. The local people no longer feel they are second-class citizens and have confidence to deal with government officials and visiting dignitaries, as well as being able to manage a successful business enterprise.
A range of training and capacity building has been provided over the years to enable the community members to design and plan their own community, to manage it in accordance with best practice management principles and to set up their own entrepreneurial activity. In addition to the design and management skills acquired by the communities, specific training initiatives have been established. 60 per cent of those who complete the training go on to full-time employment. The latest project is a training course in gas and heating skills, as these are in short supply in the areas.
The total capital cost for Phase 1 and Phase 2 was US$19.5 million (£10.6 million), of which $6.36 million (£3.45 million) was private sector commercial loans, $1,000 000 (£550,000) was drawn from the Eldonians reserves and £6.6m came from government grants. All of the management and maintenance costs for the housing and the immediate environment come from the residents’ rents. The average weekly rent for a two bed roomed house is $92.53 (£50.18) compared to $94.9 (£51.45) locally and $110.6 (£60.00) nationally. The Eldonian House, elderly care home and the administrative offices are all self-financing. The Village Hall is financially self-supporting from sales (from the bar and room lettings). The nursery is self-supporting from fees charged for childcare places. The Neighbourhood Service Company raises money from consultancy advice and development projects. The Sports Centre supplements the income from users by running contracted training programmes for Liverpool City Council and a Sure Start scheme.
Why is it innovative?
- Community initiation and involvement throughout the project.
- Use of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal as an urban feature (when the current rush to develop waterside properties was unknown) and the provision of waterside homes for those on low incomes (mostly such accommodation is for the wealthy).
- Designing out crime was pioneered in the Village layout (speed bumps, each house being overlooked by another and Neighbourhood Warden’s programme) and in the rental agreements containing anti-social behaviour and drug use clauses. This was done long before the current popularity of such approaches.
- Integrated nature of the project.
- Emphasis on financial sustainability and on-going entrepreneurship.
What is the environmental impact?
Houses are built to current building regulation standards and been upgraded to improve resource efficiency. Plans are currently being looked at to develop a combined heat and power plant to provide future energy. The restored canal basin now provides a safe haven for wildlife including ducks, swans, geese and fish that would rarely be found in the inner city. This provides an opportunity for nature lessons for local school children. Paper, glass and cans are collected as part of a local recycling scheme set up by the Eldonians.
Is it financially sustainable?
Although provided with grant aid, almost all of the projects developed by the Eldonians are now self-supporting financially. New opportunities are continually being developed to meet local needs. Strong and active relationships have been built with the private sector and the emphasis is on ensuring that new projects developed will be able to meet their own costs or make a surplus, for example the Innervations Enterprise Park and local retail development.
Many of the projects established are now generating surplus income that is being invested in other community activities and enterprises.
150 trainees have been given new skills and 92 permanent jobs have been created. The social housing provided has a lower average rent than for social housing in the city as a whole and is considered by 90 per cent of residents to be good value for money.
What is the social impact?
The raison d’etre for the creation of the community organisation was to empower local people and equip them with skills and capacity needed to make informed and strategic choices about their own future and local area. The structure of the Eldonian organisation has been specifically designed to ensure control by the local community, to give opportunities for scrutiny and direction and to ensure that local people are ultimately in charge of their future. A board of volunteers drawn from the local residents takes all management decisions.
Continual monitoring and evaluation are being carried out to ensure that the community is continuing to meet the needs of its members. Regular satisfaction and suggestion surveys have been used to develop a clear picture of the current situation in order to inform the management board. The following are the key indicators of the positive impact created by the project:
The local community is still together rather than scattered across the city.
- £50m of assets have been developed, £100m private investment attracted, 8 community businesses and 250 permanent jobs have been created.
- The quality of the properties, the physical environment and the absence of a repair backlog is much better that that of other social rented property in the city. Of 1,402 repairs reported in 2002, only three were not completed on time.
- CBHA properties are re-let within 10 days and there is a 5-year waiting list for properties in the Village.
- 97 per cent of residents are satisfied with their housing and 93 per cent are satisfied with the area they live in, 96 per cent are satisfied with the repairs service and 90 per cent consider their properties good value for money, 96 per cent of residents consider themselves well informed and involved in decision making and 87 per cent are satisfied with their opportunity to participate in decision making.
- 150 trainees have been given new skills and 1,800 adult community members have been engaged and empowered by the community development process.
- The Eldonian Village had 65 crime incidents per 1000 population in 2002 as opposed to 140 such incidents per 1000 population in neighbouring areas.
- People’s perception of their health is higher in the Eldonian Village than in the neighbouring area (86 per cent consider themselves to be in good/fairly good health compared to 77 per cent in the neighbouring area). The figure for the whole of Liverpool is 86 per cent.
Visits are made regularly to the project from groups within the UK and from other countries and the project has been widely written up in a range of publications.
The success of the community regeneration work carried out by the project has been recognised by the British Urban Regeneration Association and the project has been nominated to receive an award at the Best Practice in Regeneration Awards 2005.
Local community, private sector, national government, local government