Cumbrian communities taking action on housing
30th November 2019
Across Cumbria, volunteers are taking steps to meet the future housing needs of their communities. Distington, Levens and Ulpha are among around twenty active Community Led Housing groups across Cumbria and they each presented their story at a well-attended recent event. Over fifty delegates met to look at what’s going on locally and nationally with community led housing, with support from the Community Led Housing Hub for Cumbria and Lancaster (www.clhhub.org.uk).
The information shared by these groups illustrated different ways of working and different motivations for tackling local housing.
In Levens, the Parish council and the Levens Charity have been working over several years to secure their joint aims of creating homes and revitalising the outdated village hall. This has turned into an ambitious, multi-site project which will deliver the new hall and two plots for market sale which will cross subsidise the building of much needed affordable homes in the heart of the community.
Further ambitious plans in Distington are using Big Local funding to create a housing legacy of over forty community led homes for older residents. Volunteer Sue Hunter challenged new groups not to be afraid to aim high. “Think of an idea and double it” she said. Dementia friendly design features will make this scheme an exemplar of its kind and it will be a tremendous example for others in Cumbria and Lancashire to see and learn from.
In Ulpha, the Joseph and Eleanor Gunson Almshouses Trust is using community led homes funding to modernise the bathrooms on existing properties and keep eight small, affordable properties available for local tenants. The charity has been managing these homes for many years and is committed to continuing to meet the local need, by bringing these buildings up to a more modern standard. Changes in governance and responsibilities for these traditional almshouses are another great example of how communities are reacting and acting on local housing needs.
“Community led schemes are often smaller than market led schemes and more work is done to ensure that they meet locally identified need,” says Fran Richardson, Community Led Housing Hub Manager. “With residents doing a lot of the leg work to gather interest and support, the development that comes forward from communities suffers fewer local objections and really fits local needs, now and into the future. Community schemes are also protected for the benefit of the community longer term, from right to buy, for example.”
Funding from the Community Homes Fund has been made available through local authorities and the creation of the Housing Hub is ensuring that any community considering a project can access expert pre-planning advice, design homes, buy land and refurbish existing properties with support and expertise available at every stage.
“With both the funding and the Housing Hub available, it is a brilliant time for communities to explore what they need and to test the viability of sites and possible solutions,” says Fran. “It was a delight to hear from three such different communities at the event and to learn about what they are doing. Housing that people can afford to live in is vital to sustaining our communities, particularly in rural areas where the market can be limited. I’m keen to encourage anyone who would like to have a conversation about housing in their community to get in touch - the Hub has been created to help you explore solutions that are right for your place.”
The Community Led Housing Hub for Cumbria and Lancaster is being hosted by ACTion with Communities in Cumbria. Visit their website for more information about how they help communities and what has already been achieved. www.clhhub.org.uk