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Teaming up for community led housing in Balsall Heath

The story so far of a new partnership project between JERICHO and St Paul's Community Development Trust...

Balsall Heath - land and need but a lack of new homes

Balsall Heath in south Birmingham is an area with a lot of social capital, community organisations, community activity and more. It is part of the Balti Triangle, where the world famous and seriously delicious Birmingham Balti was born. But it is also a deprived area and there are a lot of plots of land which are unused or derelict, many with buildings on them.

At the same time there is real need for more affordable housing in the area. But like many other areas where potential sale and rentable values are low, private developers are not building new homes.

So two local organisations - JERICHO and the St Paul’s Community Development Trust - decided to look at how they could develop a scheme to both provide new affordable housing and also meet other aims around creating jobs, and supporting and skilling people up.

Two birds with one community led stone

JERICHO and St Paul’s Community Development Trust are ideal organisations to lead this idea. JERICHO runs a range of social enterprises and projects to create change in the community. One of those projects is JERICHO family member company, Jericho Construction, a social enterprise professional construction company which gives employment opportunities to people who need them the most, including young people, ex-offenders and survivors of modern slavery. St Paul’s Community Development Trust came out of a desire of local people to create a better future for their children. Providing services in the area since 1968, they run various activities and services for individuals and families around education, recreation and lifelong learning. They want every child to have the best start in life and for everyone to be able to reach their full potential.

So in some ways, community led housing is an obvious space for them to join together in. With other partners, they decided to create a Community Land Trust which would itself become a developer of affordable housing and community owned facilities. And also provide a way to train up local people - including ex-offenders - giving them skills and employment opportunities. With a construction company on hand, Jericho Construction would be the builders. The vision includes the aspiration that out of such a project might come a new multi stakeholder building cooperative. Provisionally called the Birmingham Rebuilding Cooperative, it would give ex-offenders jobs and so would help break the cycle of re-offending and make the area safer.

So a steering committee for Balsall Heath Community Land Trust was established and the search for suitable sites started.

The Old Police Station

A number of potential sites looked promising to the embryonic CLT. Now, they are currently looking to develop a scheme on the site of Balsall Heath Police Station. This is a large site which is big enough to enable housing and community and commercial space. As policing changes shape a number of stations including this one have been identified for closure. Police and Crime Commissioners have been looking at how to dispose of the buildings and land. What could be more appropriate for a project which aims to make the community safer than an old police station?

The scheme is currently in the initial development stage. Architects have drawn up detailed plans which include keeping the front wing of the old police station alongside new build to create:

  • four 4 bed family houses for outright sale

  • 28 one bedroom flats and 2 2 bed flats all for affordable rent, with appropriate referrals from relevant Birmingham City Council, or similar

  • Ground floor office and commercial spaces

  • Communal gardens, play spaces and bicycle parking.

A full commercial appraisal of the scheme has been undertaken and a business plan is in development. The appraisal includes the cost of freehold purchase of the site. The scheme would be financed using a mixture of Homes England affordable homes finance, high street property finance, and potentially a community share offer, investment from social investors and other regeneration funding. Once built, revenue funding, including income and the money to pay back commercial mortgage payments, will come from rents, commercial space and also potentially from funding for the skills, training and education elements of the scheme. The commercial properties will make a contribution to economic development for the street.

Next steps

There is an initial draft business plan in place for the scheme but the next milestone will be to gain agreement from the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner that the new CLT could have first refusal on the site. Once that is in place then a funding application will be made to the Community Housing Fund for the work to get the scheme as far as planning.

The CLT is in the process of confirming its legal structure and then will soon be set legally up, with a wider range of partners and local involvement. The scheme is also creating a partnership with Bournville Village Trust Housing Association which will manage the development once complete and people are living there.

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