Opportunities for community led housing in Solihull
We’ve been chatting to community groups and organisations, as well as officers at Solihull Council about what opportunities there might be for community led housing in the borough. We held a meeting on this topic last week and you can check out talks from some of our speakers below.
We’ve heard about a variety of project ideas from community groups and organisations in Solihull. From almshouse accommodation for local communities, to affordable shared housing for young people with shared interests (perhaps forging a career in the creative industries or entrepreneurship), to homes for a community of families whose children are autistic and young autistic adults who want to live more independently. We love this variety that is characteristic of community led housing.
Officers from the Housing and Communities team at Solihull Council are keen to support and enable communities to influence place making. We are already seeing this through the development of a number of Neighbourhood Plans. They’re now all ears to hear about the need for and interest in community led housing and what they can do to support it. Especially with examination of the Local Plan in progress and the development of a new Housing Strategy happening later this year. On top of this, there are other supportive potential partners around the table, like Solihull Community Housing, who build houses and run the housing service on behalf of the Council. This is a great place to start if you are a community activist, part of a community group or organisation in Solihull who are interested in developing housing solutions for your local community or a specific group of people, or both. Below we’re sharing a few key points that have emerged from our conversations to date.
Why get involved in community led housing?
It can provide specialist housing meeting the needs and aspirations of local communities, particular groups and communities of interest
It can provide housing that is affordable in perpetuity, so that future generations can benefit as well as current residents. This can be achieved through a variety of different legal structures
It builds community support and buy-in for the development of homes needed
It can support a healthy local economy by using local supply chains and making sure that people can afford to keep living in the area so that local businesses, services and amenities can thrive
Strategic support – the opportunities and what is needed We know that support from local authorities at a strategic and policy level can be effective in enabling community led housing. That’s why we and other community groups have been engaging with the Council on the development of their Local Plan, which has recently been reviewed and submitted to the Secretary of State to be independently examined this summer. The next potential opportunity to consider what a supportive policy framework for community led housing could look like is the development of a new housing strategy later this year. The Housing and Communities team at Solihull Council would like to hear about interest in and demand for community led housing, as they consider what should go into this strategy. So do get in touch with us if you’ve got some ideas and we can help to feed into this work and make introductions. The Council also has a Social Value Policy, which could be a useful framework for making the case for community led housing schemes.
Community participation, support and sustainability Ultimately, this is what community led housing is all about – much more than houses. It’s about creating homes in vibrant, resilient communities that bring people together to create connections, participate in and make decisions about the places they live. Some opportunities that could be really relevant in Solihull include:
Community support for development, particularly in sensitive areas, can be critical. Without it, the homes that are needed just wouldn’t get built.
Solihull Council is keen to support a strong and sustainable Voluntary Community Sector. Community led housing can be a great way for organisations to build an asset base and diversify their long term sustainable income streams.
Some local communities in Solihull have already been using their powers for Neighbourhood Planning as a way to shape the development of the area where they live.
Opportunities to access land The Council have highlighted some opportunities that they think could be particularly good ways for community led housing groups and organisations in Solihull to access land:
Rural Exceptions Policy (Policy P4b in the Adopted 2013 Local Plan) - under this policy, affordable housing developments can be permitted on green belt land to meet the local needs of households in that Parish or neighbourhood. The proposal must be consistent with the Village, Parish or Neighbourhood Plan or there must be evidence that people with local connections have a housing need and the proposal is supported by the Parish Council or Neighbourhood Group.
Self and Custom Housebuilding (Policy P4D in the Local Plan Review) - this policy will require developers of allocated sites to make a contribution to Self and Custom Build Housing on residential sites of 100 units or more. They would provide a number of plots on each development site for this purpose and these could be utilised by community groups. You can sign up to the Self and Custom Build Register to indicate your interest in these kinds of plots.
There are also brownfield sites in more urban areas of the borough. The West Midlands Combined Authority has a dedicated Brownfield Housing Fund to help with costs for infrastructure and remediation to bring these sorts of sites forward for development.
Mark talks more about these opportunities in the video below.
Technical support on offer and potential partners At wMUCH, our team of advisers are here to help you make your community led housing dreams a reality! We can support and guide you each step of the way, right from the start when you are developing your idea and figuring out the best way to meet your objectives, to the point where you are ready to start building or renovating your homes - helping you to you to plan your project, build a sustainable business plan and think through everything you need to consider at each stage of the journey. Plenty of community organisations also choose to partner with other housing providers to help them develop, refurbish and/or manage their homes. We can help you to establish successful partnerships and know potential partners who are supportive, such as Solihull Community Housing and housing associations. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
A few challenges and additional support required Community groups and organisations in Solihull have expressed a number of thoughts on this front:
Some would like to see more disposals of land for community led housing within village envelopes and on allocated sites. This might not be possible beyond the Self and Custom Housebuilding opportunity mentioned above, without some other policy changes.
Some would like to see more opportunities for local lettings. The Council needs to balance this with their responsibility to meet borough wide housing needs.
They’d like help with funding and finance, particularly grant subsidy in the context of high land values to support financial viability. This is the sort of thing that our advisers can help with.
Some would be looking for assistance with finding tenants and managing homes – and there are local partners who could help with this.
Some have called for a dedicated community led housing policy. The Housing and Communities team at the Council want to hear about further demand for this – so do add your voice if you would put such a policy to good use.
Having a contact at the Council to talk to would be really helpful – and the team there are all ears! They are keen to hear about your ideas and projects, even in their early stages. Let us know if you’d like an introduction.
Hear from our speakers Last week we held a meeting on the topic of Exploring Community Led Housing in Solihull and you can check out what some of our speakers had to say below:
Some scene setting from Austin Rodriguez, Head of Stronger Communities (Housing & Communities) at Solihull MBC
Abi Ryan, Development Manager at West Midlands Urban Community Homes (wMUCH) giving an introduction to community led housing and sharing some examples from around the country
Eddy Morton, Director at Stourbridge Community Development Trust and wMUCH on Stourbridge CLT and their Stourbridge PowerHaus project, with a call to action to join the movement!
Mark Collyer, Housing Strategy Officer for Affordable Housing at Solihull MBC on the local context in Solihull and what some of the key opportunities for community led housing could be
You can also download slides from Abi and Mark here: