Examined: how community-led housing might help combat loneliness

WE might intuitively feel that ‘community-based’ housing has to help combat loneliness. And research carried out in England – commissioned by the UK Government – appears to confirm it.

‘Those little connections’: Community-led housing and loneliness’ – published (here) by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – examines, among other things, the level of trust among neighbours in a community-led housing setting, plus the impact on wellbeing after having taken an active part in the design of one’s home.

A media announcement (here), from the UK Government, reminds us: “Community-led housing is an umbrella term for a range of models that includes cohousing, community land trusts (CLTs), co-operatives, self-help and self-build housing.”

Researchers, including from the London School of Economics, considered five community-led housing projects, as case studies:

  • Lancaster Cohousing, a purpose-built inter-generational cohousing scheme on a riverbank outside Lancaster;
  • Tangram Housing Co-op, an inter-generational co-op housed in a number of Victorian houses in Leeds, with some residents who have lived there for more than 40 years;
  • 325 Fishponds Road (Bristol CLT), a recently-built scheme of 12 houses around a communal garden; and

Begins the foreword to the report: “The origins of this report lie in the development of an England-wide loneliness strategy following publication of the Jo Cox Commission report on loneliness in late December 2017 (here) – an issue which has taken on heightened significance during the Covid19 pandemic.”

It goes on: “Community-led housing enables ordinary people to instigate housebuilding projects that help better to meet local housing need at a locally affordable cost.

“Such housing gives communities an opportunity to shape the character of their built environment. The places we live in – whether our neighbourhood, our street or our homes – can have a profound effect on our general wellbeing. Our quality of life can literally be designed in – or designed out – of our homes.

“Community-led housing has the potential to promote community cohesion and tackle loneliness.

“From designing the development, agreeing a location and raising the funds, it helps to bring local people together in constructive common endeavour.

“Once occupied, the homes themselves are collectively managed by a group (such as a community land trust or housing co- operative) drawn directly from the local or resident community.

“The co-housing model, in particular – where individually-owned or rented homes are associated with shared and commonly-owned facilities such as a meeting place – can engender a stronger sense of community where individuals are never far from supportive company.”

Says the report: “The most common reason given for becoming involved with [community-led housing] was that it aligned with respondents’ values. Other strong reasons were its social and environmental qualities. Strictly practical concerns, such as sharing responsibility for home maintenance or living in a particular area, were much less cited.

“One of the benefits adduced to community-led housing is the degree of agency it affords to residents, and the survey responses tended to support this, with 83 per cent of respondents said that decision-making in their community or group was ‘very participative’ or ‘participative’.”

Picture credit: Place Design Scotland