The Social Bite Village, Scotland

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The Social Bite Village, Scotland

Mismatches Functional adequacy Services Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Local policies Public-private initiatives
Urban Design
Promotion and production Public-private partnerships
Ownership and tenure Rental and temporary tenure

Main objectives of the project

The Social Bite Village emerges as an innovative and widely backed community designed to accommodate up to 20 individuals impacted by homelessness. Its primary objective is to furnish the requisite support, residential atmosphere, and avenues for individuals transitioning from homelessness to cultivate self-sufficiency. Originating from dialogues conducted by Social Bite with individuals aided by and employed within their social enterprises, the concept for the Village arose from the insights of those who had previously resided in temporary lodging. They conveyed that B&B accommodations failed to furnish a conducive environment for individuals seeking to break free from homelessness, prompting Social Bite to take proactive measures.

Date

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: Social Bite

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Description

Homelessness constitutes a significant aspect of Edinburgh's housing landscape, with approximately 3000 individuals presently residing in temporary accommodations. The city predominantly relies on private Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs), an approach that, informed by firsthand experiences, proves limiting in facilitating the establishment of a stable life. For this reason, the Social Bite Village was created.

The Social Bite Village functions as a transitional space rather than a permanent residence, providing residents with support to transition into mainstream tenancies, employment, and education. Comprising 10 "Nest Houses," each shared by two residents along with an additional unit for staff, the Village also features a central Community Hub. This Hub serves as the focal point for community life, offering spaces for communal cooking, dining, and socializing, as well as hosting various training and support activities. Over a span of 12-18 months, the project aids residents in securing permanent accommodations and supports them through this transition period. As individuals move on, new Community Members join, benefiting from support and mentorship from existing community members. Designed to offer refuge to those trapped in temporary accommodations, the Village endeavors to serve as a supportive platform for breaking the cycle of homelessness. The 20 community members residing in the Village were recruited through self-referral and partnerships with other organizations, all having experienced temporary accommodation.

The overarching ambition is to establish a comprehensive solution to homelessness, encompassing housing support and employment opportunities. By doing so, the initiative aims to positively impact some of Scotland's most vulnerable individuals, steering them away from paths dominated by poverty and exclusion and toward ones characterized by compassionate support and inclusion. This endeavor is envisioned to offer a model for addressing homelessness that can be replicated by private individuals, charities, or governments in Scotland and beyond.

Recognizing that the initiative may not serve as a universal solution for all homeless individuals, the focus is on a subset of the homeless population with fewer complex needs, without current addiction issues, and who are motivated by the prospect of living in a community and achieving employment and independent living. The aim is to develop a scalable solution.

One-third of the staff members have firsthand experience with homelessness, so they know what the residents are dealing. Residents are assisted in applying for housing benefits and/or seeking employment to facilitate rent payments. The goal is to secure 80% of the Village's funding through rent payments, with any shortfalls addressed through fundraising efforts. Social Bite commits to an annual fund for the Village, ensuring a consistent level of support for residents. Under the terms of the lease with the city council, no rent or council tax is paid. However, since Social Bite does not own the land, there exists the possibility of relocation after four years, necessitating the design of housing that can be easily transported to a new site.

Affordable and Supportive Housing for the Elderly, Liverpool

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Affordable and Supportive Housing for the Elderly, Liverpool

Mismatches Vulnerable groups Demographic/Urban growth
Policies and regulations Local policies Governance Public-private initiatives

Main objectives of the project

Liverpool's innovative housing strategy for the elderly underscores the vital importance of tailored housing solutions in promoting independence and well-being. By transitioning from traditional institutional care to community-oriented extra care housing, the city helps older adults maintain their social networks and quality of life. ACCESS Liverpool exemplifies the strategy's effectiveness, providing a streamlined, one-stop service for housing and care needs. This approach ensures that housing is not only affordable but also suitable for the residents, addressing their specific necessities and ensuring they live in secure, supportive environments that enhance their overall well-being.

Date

  • 2000: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • City of Liverpool
  • Liverpool Housing Action Trust
  • ACCESS Liverpool

Location

Continent: Europe
City: Liverpool
Country/Region: Liverpool, United Kingdom

Description

Affordable housing is not a one-fits-all solution. Each person might have their own needs and vulnerabilities that must be taken into an account if we want to build housing for all. One example of this specific groups is elderly people. Housing for older people requires a unique approach that addresses their specific needs, promotes independence, and enhances quality of life. Unlike the general population, older individuals often require accommodation that is adapted to their physical and health needs, provides access to care and support services, and allows them to remain active and engaged in their communities. Recognizing these needs, the City of Liverpool has implemented a strategic approach to housing for older people, focusing on moving away from institutional models towards more empowering and community-based solutions.

Several years ago, the City of Liverpool embarked on a comprehensive strategy to enhance accommodation options for its older residents. This initiative was rooted in the efforts of the Liverpool Housing Action Trust and various Registered Social Landlords (RSLs). In collaboration with the local authority, a report was commissioned from consultants in 2001, and the recommendations from this report were adopted by Liverpool’s strategic housing partnership. This strategy has since driven the redesign of housing, care, and support services across the city, aiming to empower older individuals to improve their quality of life and remain in their preferred homes and communities. A key element of this strategy is the development of extra care housing, providing a positive alternative to traditional residential care facilities, which are not cheap, without having to live without the needed care. Additionally, the city has established active ageing services to support this demographic further. By doing so, older people can still be living on their own and maintain their own community and social network. Making housing affordable also means making housing accessible for people, considering their specific necessities. In fact, the absence of services for this population tend to leave them in housing insecurity or living in sub-optimal conditions.

Another pivotal component of Liverpool's strategy is ACCESS Liverpool, a common allocation and advice service that began in 2000. ACCESS Liverpool manages a unified assessment and waiting list system for housing providers across the city, benefiting older and disabled individuals who need specialized accommodation. The service operates on behalf of a partnership of 24 housing providers, including the city council, and collaborates with key stakeholders such as Age Concern Liverpool and the Primary Care Trust (PCT).

ACCESS Liverpool features a small, dedicated team that oversees a common waiting list for sheltered accommodation, extra care housing, and accessible homes. This service has been well-received, as evidenced by satisfaction surveys, due to its efficiency in preventing older and disabled individuals from needing to approach multiple landlords. The strengths of ACCESS Liverpool include conducting home visits, encouraging discussions about individual needs and choices, and applying a single assessment methodology. In the 2006/07 period, ACCESS Liverpool successfully rehoused 366 people, including a significant portion who were homeless or facing serious issues. Currently, the waiting list includes 600 individuals seeking sheltered housing and another 600 looking for specially adapted dwellings. Thus, ACCESS works as a one-stop-shop for elderly and disable people that has become a great governance structure among social services and housing services providers.

Liverpool's approach demonstrates a comprehensive and collaborative effort to enhance housing options for older people, ensuring they receive the support and accommodations necessary to live independently and comfortably within their communities.

HACT Social Value Bank

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HACT Social Value Bank

Policies and regulations Governance Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact
Financing

Main objectives of the project

HACT, a UK charity, partners with housing sector organizations to enhance community benefits through innovative products and services. Central to their approach is the "Social Value Bank," aiding social housing providers in assessing their social return. The Teviot Estate redevelopment exemplifies this approach, with contractors committing to specific outcomes aligned with resident priorities. This groundbreaking methodology integrates social value throughout the regeneration process, ensuring meaningful impact.

Date

  • 2020: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • HACT

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: United Kingdom

Description

HACT, a charity organization based in the UK, collaborates with various entities in the housing sector to drive benefits for residents and communities by offering insight-driven products and services that promote innovation and foster collaboration. One of its notable features is the "Social Value Bank," which aids social housing providers in calculating their social return. This bank comprises 88 outcomes, each with a defined financial metric incorporating wellbeing, health, and potential savings to the state. This lab can show any particular stakeholder the evolution on the social return of a specific project.

The outcomes are developed using a consistent methodology, drawing from over eight years of research and national data surveys. They are based on person-centered principles, utilizing data on self-reported wellbeing and life circumstances to measure actual experiences. The process involves setting up projects, selecting outcomes, establishing targets and budgets, and then using the Social Value Bank calculator to model, monitor, and measure project impacts. Subsequently, meaningful reports can be generated to showcase the achieved impact.

This methodology was applied in the Teviot Estate redevelopment project. After extensive consultation with residents, four priority themes emerged: Community, Homes, Streets, and Parks. The aim was to generate £278 million in social return value. Contractors were required to commit to delivering specific outcomes during the tendering process, with commitments varying based on bid amounts. All partners involved in the project were expected to support social value outcomes from the outset, and contractors worked closely with the Teviot Social Value Manager to develop delivery plans and provide progress reports.

To enhance value for the local community, input from local stakeholders was sought to better understand community needs and services. Additionally, the Community Chest Fund provided grant funding to local groups and businesses contributing to the program's outcomes. This approach represents a groundbreaking use of social value in regeneration schemes, characterized by both the scale of the commitment and the comprehensive integration of social value throughout the regeneration plans, from contractors' commitments to the assurance process.

The Whole Housing Approach, UK

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The Whole Housing Approach, UK

Mismatches Cultural suitability Vulnerable groups Gender
Policies and regulations National policies Local policies

Main objectives of the project

The Whole Housing Approach (WHA) is a comprehensive strategy designed to address the housing and safety requirements of individuals affected by domestic abuse within a local community. It integrates various housing tenure types and support initiatives essential for aiding victims/survivors in maintaining or obtaining secure housing. The overarching aim of WHA is to enhance the accessibility of safe and stable housing across all housing tenure categories, including social, private rented, and private ownership. It encompasses facilitating transitions from refuge services and temporary accommodations to more permanent housing solutions. Furthermore, WHA strives to provide a diverse array of housing options and tailored initiatives for individuals impacted by domestic abuse, empowering them with the choice to either relocate or remain in their current living arrangements.

Date

  • 2018: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA)
  • Standing Together Against Domestic Violence (STADV)

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: London, United Kingdom

Description

In the UK, the Femicide Census, a collaboration between Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid, has revealed that 75% of women killed by current or former partners in 2016 were murdered in their own homes. Victims of domestic abuse reside in various types of housing, and a significant number of them, along with their children, become homeless each year in efforts to seek safety. Consequently, there is a pressing need for affordable and secure housing solutions.

Standing Together Against Domestic Violence (STADV), a London-based domestic abuse service, has been instrumental in pioneering the Coordinated Community Response approach in the UK. Alongside housing associations Gentoo and Peabody, STADV co-founded the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) in 2014, a nationwide initiative aimed at enhancing the housing sector's response to domestic abuse. Furthermore, STADV is a key partner in implementing the 'Whole Housing Approach' project, launched in 2018, which involves multiple agencies, domestic abuse services, housing providers, and local authorities across three pilot sites in England.

The objective of this program is to enhance housing options for families impacted by domestic abuse through a holistic housing approach. By recognizing that families have varying degrees of need, the program aims to eliminate the necessity for them to become homeless in order to escape abuse. Across ten local authority areas in England, the project collaborates with specialist domestic abuse services, housing providers, private landlords, and financial institutions. Victims receive tailored support to enhance safety in their homes, and if necessary, facilitate relocation without forfeiting their social tenancy. The program also allocates funds to enhance safety, stability, and prevent homelessness. Tailored training programs have been developed to enhance the skills and knowledge of housing providers and landlords in identifying domestic abuse and offering appropriate support.

A significant challenge encountered was the need to align the diverse stakeholders required to maximize impact across existing organizational and systemic barriers. Typically, homelessness, housing, and domestic abuse services operate independently, leading to fragmented responses. To address this, a partnership comprising over 25 organizations across three regions was established. This involved assembling a dedicated team capable of articulating how organizations can collaborate effectively to identify and prevent domestic abuse at an early stage.

The program is financially supported by the Ministry of Housing and the Local Government Domestic Abuse Fund 2018-2020, having been awarded £1.45 million over an 18-month period.

Norwich Council Houses in Goldsmith Street

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Norwich Council Houses in Goldsmith Street

Financing Financial actors Public funding
Urban Design Environments Quality Liveability Regulación Técnica
Promotion and production Public promotion
Ownership and tenure

Main objectives of the project

Goldsmith Street in Norwich exemplifies a rare phenomenon in the UK: rows of terraced houses constructed directly by the local council, leased with stable tenures at affordable social rents. This collection of 105 homes stands out as an epitome of top-notch architecture, showcasing the utmost environmental and social consciousness. It holds the distinction of being the largest Passivhaus project in the UK.

Date

  • 2019: Ganador
  • 2008: En proceso

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: Norwich Council
  • Architect: Cathy Hawley
  • Architect: Mikhail Riches

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Norwich, United Kingdom

Description

Goldsmith Street, an innovative development consisting of approximately 100 homes, was constructed by Norwich City Council, bypassing profit-driven developers. These homes epitomize true social housing, leased directly from the council with secure tenancies at fixed rates. Notably, they stand as some of the most energy-efficient residences ever erected in the UK, meeting the rigorous Passivhaus standards from Germany, resulting in a remarkable 70% reduction in fuel expenses for tenants.

Initially, the council had intended to sell the site to a local housing provider, but the plans were thwarted by the financial crisis. In 2012, the city made the bold decision to undertake the development itself, despite not having built homes for decades. Facing challenges, including the loss of around 500 council homes in recent years due to policies transferring public assets into private hands, Norwich navigated financial constraints. Current regulations allow councils to use only 30% of receipts from council home sales through the contentious right-to-buy policy to cover new home costs within a tight three-year timeframe. Nevertheless, Norwich found a solution, employing a combination of borrowing, funds from its housing revenue account, some right-to-buy receipts, and council reserves to proceed with the development independently, without a housing association or development partner.

London-based architects Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley won the competition for the site in 2008. Their proposal, distinguishing itself by advocating for streets over blocks of apartment buildings, was inspired by the Golden Triangle buildings, a coveted neighborhood characterized by Victorian terraced houses. This choice demonstrated a lesson in density, challenging planning norms by showcasing the possibility of maintaining humane scaling while accommodating more homes.

Extensive attention to detail is evident throughout the development, from the intricate brick balconies to the cleverly designed interlocking staircases in the three-story flats, ensuring each residence has its own street-facing entrance. Back gardens overlook planted alleys featuring communal tables and benches, while parking is relegated to the site's perimeter, prioritizing pedestrian-friendly streets.

In 2019, the buildings were awarded the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize. Norwich continues to advocate for innovative approaches to social housing, addressing financial and social constraints to further its endeavors in this regard.

Gairloch Community Housing Trust

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Gairloch Community Housing Trust

Mismatches Price Services Diversity
Policies and regulations Land Governance
Financing
Promotion and production Public-private partnerships
Ownership and tenure

Main objectives of the project

Communities throughout the Highlands have experienced depopulation, diminishing services, and the complexities arising from growing tourism and housing prices. Consequently, there has been a depletion of existing housing options and heightened strain on remaining businesses and services. This situation has led to reduced accessibility to housing, land, and assets. However, the Gairloch initiative, through its Local Plan and Community Housing Trust, has initiated a transformation in housing policies within depopulated regions in Scotland.

Date

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: Gairloch CHT

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: United Kingdom

Description

Situated on the coast of Wester Ross, in the northwest Highlands of Scotland, the village of Gairloch boasts a relatively small population of around 750 residents. Despite its size, Gairloch serves as the primary hub for the region, offering essential amenities such as shops, services, and a high school. Positioned within an Area of Outstanding Beauty (AOB), Gairloch has long been a destination favored by tourists.

The rise in second homes and holiday lets has contributed to a scarcity of available housing, driving prices beyond the means of local inhabitants. Consequently, the local school enrollment has declined, as families struggle to secure suitable and affordable accommodation. Additionally, young people facing similar housing obstacles, coupled with reliance on a low-wage seasonal tourism economy, are contributing to demographic shifts that could jeopardize the village's long-term viability.

Recognizing the pressing need for regeneration and addressing these issues, there was widespread community support for revitalizing the area. The Community Housing Trust (CHT) spearheaded a collaborative effort, convening a steering group comprising over 50 representatives from local organizations, landowners, and the public sector. Their goal was to maximize the potential of a derelict site and adjacent land to meet the multifaceted needs of the community.

The Achtercairn development emerged as a mixed-use project, combining affordable housing with various tenures and facilities catering to social, commercial, educational, and training needs. Notably, CHT introduced an innovative legal concept known as the Rural Housing Burden title condition, which offers a percentage discount from the market value while granting full ownership to the property owner. This mechanism ensures long-term affordability, yet CHT retains the right to repurchase homes and prioritize locals in allocation policies.

Collaborating with local, regional, and national partners, the development delivered 25 highly energy-efficient homes across two phases, facilitated by CHT, Albyn Housing Association, and the Highland Council. These homes offer a mix of social rent, low-cost homeownership, and rent-to-buy options. The success of the Achtercairn project has paved the way for similar community-led initiatives, such as the ongoing work in the crofting community of Staffin in Skye. Here, a mixed-use development is underway, providing affordable housing alongside commercial opportunities and essential services, demonstrating a scalable model to address rural inequality and combat the climate crisis.

Hemsworth Court

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Hemsworth Court

Policies and regulations Governance Evaluation and impact
Urban Design Inclusion Equity
Promotion and production Public promotion

Main objectives of the project

Hemsworth Court is a purpose-built, supported housing development for people with dementia and cognitive impairment. Based in Lower Shankhill in Belfast, a deprived area affected for many years by civil unrest, it has become the first dementia-friendly community in the city.

With the number of dementia diagnoses set to rise to over one million in the UK by 2025, Hemsworth Court shows how to successfully develop dementia-friendly housing. By providing 24-hour care with dementia-friendly facilities which help to avoid potential confusion and distress, residents are supported to live independently within their community.

Awareness of dementia in the local community has increased through Hemsworth Court’s wider work with charities, faith groups, schools and local businesses. This means that local people understand and interact more with residents and many take part in social events. Lower Shankhill, an area heavily affected by the conflict in Northern Ireland, continues to face challenges in health, education, employment and housing. Hemsworth Court has provided a positive boost to the whole community through training and encouragement to interact with, understand and support its residents.

Date

  • 2017:

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: World Habitat

Location

Continent: Europe
City: Belfast
Country/Region: Belfast, United Kingdom

Description

Project Description

Hemsworth Court, which opened in 2013, is a purpose-built, supported housing development for people with dementia and cognitive impairment in Lower Shankhill, a deprived area in Belfast, Northern Ireland affected for many years by civil unrest.

In 2009, the city’s public sector health and social care provider Belfast Health and Social Care Trust needed to provide a new facility in this part of Belfast to replace an existing building. They wanted to take a community-focused approach so the Trust worked with Helm Housing (now Radius Housing Association) to develop an exemplary, dementia friendly scheme involving much more than the building itself. The Hemsworth Court project involved a holistic approach to working with the community. The new building was delivered alongside community-wide training, with a team employed to lead on community integration. This work made Lower Shankhill – an area that for some time had suffered significant deprivation and had a poor reputation – the first Dementia Friendly Community in Belfast.

The majority of the funding for the project came from Supporting People (a public-sector programme run by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive which promotes independent living). The project was a response to a range of strategies and plans within Northern Ireland designed to improve the way the needs of older people and people with dementia are met.

The UK charity Alzheimer’s Society also advised on the development, which was completed in 2013. There are 35 modern apartments with communal facilities including a coffee bar, cinema and games room, library, cookery room, gym, hairdressers and gardens. Although Hemsworth Court itself has many facilities, that doesn’t mean that it is separated from the local community, quite the reverse. Local people are able to use many of the facilities at Hemsworth Court and social activities are arranged which involve residents and the wider public alike.

Hemsworth Court has been designed to promote independence. Support is also in place so residents can carry out everyday tasks like shopping and other activities. The people who live at Hemsworth Court are supported to live independently in their local area with 24-hour care available, so they can carry on with their lives with all the support they need in place. This is really important to the people living there and their families, as the onset of dementia and the disruption it causes to many aspects of people’s lives can be highly distressing.

Aims and Objectives

The main aim of Hemsworth Court is to provide a quality home for people with dementia that allows them to live happily and independently alongside their community. They also aim to:

  • Empower adults with dementia to maintain independence, wellbeing and social inclusion.
  • Educate and create awareness of dementia in the local community, to increase the safety and well-being of dementia sufferers.
  • Reduce the loneliness and isolation of people with dementia.
  • Reduce the stigma associated with the condition.

Context

Dementia is a term which describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the United Kingdom, with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025. A 2013 report by the Alzheimer’s Society indicated that Belfast has the highest rates of diagnosis of dementia in the UK.

Hemsworth Court is located in the Lower Shankhill area, which has been designated for regeneration by Belfast City Council. Predominantly a Protestant/Loyalist area, Lower Shankhill was heavily affected by ‘The Troubles’, three decades of civil and political unrest and conflict in Northern Ireland which began in the 1960s. The Troubles are deemed to have ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, but the after effects are still felt in many communities. In Lower Shankhill, deprivation is high in terms of health, education and training, crime, employment, income and housing. The community suffers from high unemployment and negative perceptions of the area. A high proportion of the local population are on low incomes and have few formal qualifications. Many people who lived through and are survivors of the political conflict live in the area and have experienced problems with their mental and physical health. This has contributed to high health and social deprivation.

Services for older residents, and in particular residents with dementia, are in high demand in Northern Ireland. Research by the Alzheimer’s Society found there are over 20,000 people living with dementia across the country. In 2009, when the Hemsworth Court project started, there were 158 people with dementia on the waiting list for Helm Housing, of which 103 were considered in housing need. At that point there were no facilities available to provide supported housing for people living with dementia in Lower Shankhill. There is an ever increasing demand for this type of comprehensive facility and today Hemsworth Court is full and has a long waiting list.

Key Features

In order to make sure that Hemsworth Court really became part of the local community a strand of work called the Hemsworth Court Community Integration Project was set up. This was developed through partnerships with the Alzheimer’s Society, faith groups, older people’s groups, community policing, local charities, schools and businesses. The impact of these activities has been to ensure that Hemsworth Court and the wider neighbourhood responds positively to the needs of dementia sufferers. Before and after the building was completed activities took place within and beyond the Lower Shankhill area to raise awareness about dementia and include local people in the project. These activities had a strong intergenerational and cross community focus and included:

  • The ‘Social Sofa’, a colourful concrete sofa designed and decorated by residents which toured the area so people could sit, have a chat and share memories and ideas. This activity also worked to bring dementia into the public eye and stimulated discussion amongst residents and via the media.
  • The project became involved in the Belfast Walkability Project, which engaged older residents in conversations about how public spaces can be better designed for them.

A key feature of the development of Hemsworth Court was about understanding how dementia has an impact on everyday life and making appropriate decisions about design at an early stage to accommodate these needs. Research has shown that the cognitive impairment affecting people with dementia can be aggravated by building design. For this reason an interior design company specialising in design for dementia were used. All design and materials are dementia friendly, chosen to be familiar to residents to avoid potential confusion and distress.

Including and beyond the three main organisations (Helm Housing, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society), partnership working was key to the success of this development. Stakeholders with an important role in influencing the work included:

  • People with dementia themselves and their families.
  • Local businesses who have learnt about the needs of their customers and service users with dementia, enabling them to provide the appropriate support.
  • Specialists in design and construction.
  • Public bodies involved in providing funding and applying best practice including:
    • the national government in Northern Ireland;
    • Belfast City Council;
    • the Northern Ireland Health Executive;
    • the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and the Dementia Services Development Centre.

What impact has it had?

Lower Shankill is a traditionally ‘hard to reach’ area, with many households affected by high levels of deprivation and isolation. This project has contributed to increasing social interaction locally. There is greater cooperation amongst residents, local communities and local businesses. Dementia friendly training in the local community has helped to reduce the stigma associated with the condition and being one of the first dementia friendly communities in Northern Ireland has created a sense of pride in the local community. Public awareness of dementia has increased through the wider activities like the Social Sofa art installation, which succeeded in attracting attention and addressing the stigma of dementia as an issue.

Hemsworth Court has succeeded in helping people living with dementia to retain independence and increased the acceptance and understanding of dementia sufferers in the wider community. The scheme has recognised the right of dementia sufferers to safe, secure housing.

How is it funded?

Total capital costs were £5,025,178 (US$6,497,555), made up of:

  • Land – £300,000 (US$387,900)
  • On-costs – £747,405 (US$966,395)
  • Construction – £3,977,773 (US$5,143,260)

Costs were met by a Department of Communities Grant of £4,598,128 (US$5,945,380) and private finance of £427,050 (US$552,175).

Annual running costs are covered by Helm Housing (now Radius Housing) for the maintenance of the buildings. Day-to-day running costs are funded through rent and housing benefit payments. Care costs are met by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

The average rent is £123.45 (US$159.62) for a one-bedroom unit and £125.35 (US$162.08) for two bedrooms per week.

Future costs are highly uncertain due to funding pressures faced by service providers and Housing Associations.

Why is it innovative?

Hemsworth Court is the only provider of dementia friendly supported living in the city of Belfast. One of its most innovative features is the fact families can live together so people with dementia can get 24-hour professional care while also living with their family.

This purpose built accommodation allows people with dementia or cognitive impairment to remain independent with care and support available when needed. Residents can remain in the area instead of being forced to move into a nursing home outside of their community. This helps to maintain their well-being and ability to cope with the stresses of the condition.

The work to integrate the development with the community has helped to boost an area which has suffered from long-term deprivation and decline. While the activities carried out to integrate people with dementia or cognitive impairment were designed to ensure the well-being of the residents of Hemsworth Court, they have had a wider impact in improving the image and sense of pride of the local community.

The other activities that took place alongside the construction of Hemsworth Court, like the Social Sofa art project, helped to build links between people with dementia and the wider community. The Social Sofa captured the memories of residents through art in a partnership with local community groups, schools and staff from Hemsworth Court. It created a discussion point to bring the topic out into the open and was the first activity of its kind in Northern Ireland.

What is the environmental impact?

The design and construction of the housing includes several environmentally sustainable features such as baths and toilets that use less water than traditional ones, energy efficient gas-fired boilers, responsibly sourced timber, energy efficient lighting and solar panels.

Rainwater is collected in underground tanks to supply half of the toilets, with top-ups from the mains water supply. The whole building is fitted with a heat recovery ventilation system, which recycles hot air from inside while bringing in cooler air from outside. Hemsworth Court has been rated four out of six stars under the Code for Sustainable Homes[1].

The grounds of the building have been landscaped to contribute to local biodiversity and allow residents to enjoy the gardens. Residents are encouraged to reduce their environmental impact by using recycling bins, external drying spaces and cycle storage is provided to encourage people to cycle.

[1] The Code for Sustainable Homes was withdrawn by the UK Government in 2015. Elements of it have been merged into general Building Regulations

Is it financially sustainable?

For residents, rental payments are lower than market rate and housing benefits contribute towards these costs for those households that are eligible. The services provided to residents are subsidised by the government-funded Supporting People programme and there are no significant changes to running costs anticipated in the future.

Budget cuts present an issue for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, particularly in replicating the model to other specialised supported living accommodation. However, it is hoped that the success of Hemsworth Court will attract further funding from the public and private sectors to replicate the project in other areas.

What is the social impact?

Hemsworth Court has become a community hub hosting information days, community group meetings and health education events. The main aim is to support residents so they are genuinely integrated into their local community. The stigma associated with dementia has been reduced and there is now a better understanding of the condition within the local community.

People living at Hemsworth Court have lots of opportunities to take part in community activities and these can help develop their cognitive skills. The availability of an Activity Coordinator, support staff and the increased awareness within the local community about how to support people with dementia or cognitive impairment has increased the confidence of the residents, enabling them to live more independently.

The Social Sofa helped to achieve wider awareness about the challenge of dementia and cognitive impairment. The Social Sofa project was a collaborative project and involved schoolchildren and a local arts centre. This project really helped residents to develop artistic skills and build confidence.

Barriers

The initial challenge of the programme was raising awareness of dementia and educating the community on the condition. Workshops for local businesses helped to change attitudes and integrate the community, professionals, residents and families. Amongst carers there was some fear or lack of understanding of how to care for their loved one with dementia, especially regarding safety. Belfast Health and Social Care Trust provided a training programme for carers to help overcome this barrier. This included improving people’s understanding of the condition, supporting families to accept a diagnosis and learning how supported housing works.

Although Hemsworth Court is an award-winning scheme and hugely popular with residents and the community, funding to replicate the scheme is not available from the same sources due to budget cuts. It is hoped that the high quality of the scheme and savings to health services (through the reduced need for hospital stays or nursing care among residents) may be successful in attracting investment from elsewhere.

Lessons Learned

  • There is a need to challenge the attitude that residential or nursing homes are the only viable options for the long-term care of people with dementia.
  • Residents and the community need to work together to allow people with dementia to maintain their dignity and independence by feeling welcomed and are able to continue everyday activities in their community.
  • It is important to raise awareness about a programme like this at early stages, to encourage integration within the community.
  • Partnership working and training are necessary to build the knowledge and skills of professionals not familiar with dementia-friendly approaches to housing and care.

Evaluation

Hemsworth Court has successfully passed two government-led inspections:

  • The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority inspects supported living developments at least once a year. Hemsworth Court successfully passed the last two annual inspections with no issues raised.
  • Supporting People is the policy and funding framework for housing support services and assesses 17 objectives within its Quality Assessment Framework. This assessment noted that care records are person-centred and the views and preferences of individuals are taken into account.

Recognition

The project has received a number of awards:

  • Belfast Housing and Social Care Trust Chairman’s Award 2015 Dignity in Dementia.
  • Dementia Services Development Centre Gold Standard Award Dementia Appropriate Environment.
  • Alzheimer’s Society 2015 Dementia Friendly Communities Award.
  • Elevator Award Dublin City University & Health Service Executive Award 2015 Community Integration and Social Sofa.
  • William Keown Architects Access Award 2015 Accessible Housing Environment.
  • Chartered Institute of Housing Awards 2015 – Finalist for Promoting Integration Award.
  • European Responsible Housing Awards 2016 – Finalist for Good Governance and Fair Relations with Stakeholders.
  • In addition the Social Sofa initiative has featured in local and national news.

Transfer

Hemsworth Court has developed a template for others to adapt if they want to deliver specialist supported housing. It can be used to provide housing which helps vulnerable people to live fuller independent lives.

The dementia friendly approach of Hemsworth Court has been transferred to the town of Holywood to the north of Belfast. This is a partnership scheme between Radius Housing and Dementia Northern Ireland. Holywood is now a dementia friendly town.

Hemsworth Court has also been visited by Australian housing professionals who are keen to adopt the model.

Funding issues are a major barrier in transferring the model in the UK. The level of grant funding that Helm Housing received is no longer available from Supporting People or the government of Northern Ireland, though as the approach to caring for people with dementia or cognitive impairment offers long term savings for health services there may be potential for investment in the approach from other sources.

Authors:

Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust

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Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust

Mismatches Functional adequacy Services Demographic/Urban growth
Policies and regulations Local policies Building capacity
Urban Design Urban fabrics Quality Liveability
Promotion and production Participatory processes Innovation Self-promotion

Main objectives of the project

Granby 4 Streets developed out of a community group that campaigned against the demolition of houses and relocation of the community. It has successfully halted the demolition and provided a focus for the community using a creative approach. Its long term goal is to renovate all of the houses in the Granby triangle providing homes for 250 families who are either members of the original Granby community wanting to return home, or local families in housing need.

Date

  • 2015:

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: World Habitat

Location

Continent: Europe
City: Liverpool
Country/Region: Liverpool, United Kingdom

Description

Project Description

Granby 4 Streets and its predecessor community group have, for many years, kept the Granby community together. Its ultimately successful campaign to halt the demolition of houses provided a focus for the community but its approach was unconventional and creative. It focused on reclaiming empty houses and streets from dereliction and boosting the community’s pride in the area. It runs a street market that sells vintage clothes, cakes and Caribbean food. This has kept people visiting the area and has provided a visual presence for the community in the wider area and the city.

It organised community painting and community gardening. This work manifested itself in murals and artwork on the bricked up windows of empty houses and in the displays of flowers and vegetables planted in recycled containers along the length of the streets. This activity won the North West in Bloom Award in 2014.

In 2011, it successfully attracted funding from a Jersey-based social entrepreneur. This enabled the community to commission architects to set out plans for the area. These featured a number of highly innovative designs including turning one house with no roof into a glazed winter garden. The designs achieved significant media attention and won the prestigious art award the Turner Prize, in 2015.

In 2012, Granby 4 Streets successfully negotiated with the council for ten homes to be transferred to the Community Land Trust for renovation. Five have been sold and five retained for low-cost renting.

The work helped inspire other renovation projects to take place in Granby. A renovation programme by local housing association Plus Dane has seen work start on renovating 27 derelict houses. Liverpool Mutual Homes is renovating 40 houses and a local housing cooperative, Terrace 21, is soon to start renovating five houses.

In 2015, Granby 4 Streets set up Granby Workshop, a social enterprise based in Granby itself that makes household products, such as door handles and fireplaces from the waste and rubble left by the houses that were demolished. The composite material they produce has become known as Granby Rock.

In 2016, Granby 4 Streets successfully secured Arts Council funding for the Winter Gardens house. This, when built, will use two derelict houses to create a glazed communal space that they envisage will be used like a botanical garden to grow exotic plants. The building will also provide a common house for the community, have bed and breakfast accommodation and conference facilities to help generate income for Granby 4 Streets.

Aims and Objectives

Granby 4 Streets aims to bring community regeneration to the whole Granby neighbourhood, not only undoing the damage and neglect of the last forty years but retaining the best of what remained and building a better, stronger and inspiring area. Its vision statement describes creating “a thriving, vibrant, mixed community, building on the existing creativity, energy and commitment within the area”.

Its initial redevelopment brief described “retaining the generosity and flexibility of the original buildings”, and “creating a neighbourhood, which provides affordable housing; the greenest quarter in the city; is architecturally rich and includes the imaginative renovations of Victorian terraces”. Its long-term goal is to renovate all of the houses in the Granby triangle, providing homes for 250 families who are either members of the original community wanting to return home or local families in housing need.

The main issues Granby 4 Streets aims to address are:

  • Lack of cohesion and resilience.
  • Low levels of civic engagement to hold accountable bodies to task.
  • Social isolation that some groups within the community experience e.g. minority groups.
  • Lack of buildings for public use or social activities for the good of the community.
  • Lack of communal spaces to enhance community cohesion and healthy lives.
  • Poor state of housing in the area.

Context

Granby is a small area of Liverpool. It comprises a series of roads of nineteenth century terraced houses, located in the Liverpool L8 area, about a mile from the city centre. It is the most ethnically diverse area of Liverpool and reportedly the home of the UK’s oldest Black community. There is evidence to suggest that a Black community has lived in this area for almost 400 years.

The community is amongst the poorest in the UK. In 2015, it was measured to be within the 1% most deprived wards in the country under the indices of deprivation. This measure considers levels of income, employment, education, health, crime, living environment and barriers to housing. The main street that runs through the area (Granby Street) was, until the early 1970s, a busy high street with grocery shops, butchers, small scale manufacturing and even a cinema. But during the 1970s, the area began to decline, residents experienced high levels of unemployment and increasing levels of poverty. Tensions in the area spilled over into 1981 with a serious civil disturbance known as the Toxteth Riots. One person died, hundreds were injured, hundreds more were arrested and many buildings were damaged or destroyed.

In the years following the riots, life in Granby became increasingly bleak. Poverty and unemployment levels became worse, more shops went out of business and empty houses began to appear as people’s perceptions of the area became more negative. Liverpool City Council’s response to these problems was highly controversial within the local community. It acquired hundreds of houses in the area for demolition. New houses were built in their place but some areas were left as vacant demolition sites. Allocation policies for the new houses were also controversial; the community perceived that they had the effect of breaking up the original community. The original houses were left standing in just four streets. But even here, most of the houses were acquired by the council and housing associations and bricked up and left vacant. Many members of the community felt that there was a policy of managed decline. Some perceived it as “special measures” (a term borrowed from the UK government’s response to failing schools) in response to, and possibly as punishment for, the 1981 riots.

Council intervention was accelerated in the early 21st Century with the introduction of the national government’s Housing Market Renewal Programme. This provided government funding for councils to deal with areas with housing in decline. During this period, more houses were acquired and bricked up and more were demolished. There was little maintenance carried out and, as a result, the remaining houses, most of which were now empty, fell into serious disrepair.

In 2010, Liverpool City Council attempted to sell the whole of Granby to a developer. There was interest and a developer was selected but after a series of challenges the procurement process eventually stalled and the contract was withdrawn. By 2011, just four of the original 14 streets remained. Most of the houses were vacant and bricked up. Just 70 residents were left in the area. Yet the residents association that had formed in the 1990s to fight the demolition of houses was still present and they sensed that an opportunity had arisen.

They became a Community Land Trust in 2011 and raised funds for refurbishment and community control.

Key Features

Community Land Trusts are locally driven, controlled and democratically accountable organisations. Membership is open to all who live or work in the defined community, including properties that the Community Land Trust does not own. Members elect a volunteer board to run the Community Land Trust on their behalf on a day to day basis. The wider community in Liverpool L8 have offered Granby 4 Streets support from 2011, with open events taking place at Granby Market.

Granby 4 Streets deliver street events, social gatherings and participative projects, e.g. a planting group, to engage the immediate and wider community. They also use their website and social media presence to update and encourage participation and deliver a digital (and hardcopy) newsletter to boost information sharing.

Granby 4 Streets has a governance structure led by a board of Trustees that comprises:

  • One third of residents from the four streets.
  • One third of residents from the wider L8 area.
  • One third of stakeholders who work in the community with applicable skills, competencies and knowledge of the issues.

The Granby 4 Streets approach was to instigate, constitute and lead a network of projects, partnerships, and collaborations forged through longstanding negotiations with public and private stakeholders. The local authority transferred properties over to Granby 4 Streets in 2012 as an asset transfer. Steinbeck Studios, a social investor, offered an interest-free loan and funded the ‘vision document’ for the area that subsequently encouraged other partners to get involved. Steinbeck Studio provided project management in the early days and has now developed plans to redevelop homes on Ducie Street which will have a budget of several millions. Other houses in the Granby 4 Streets area are being developed by Plus Dane, LMH and Terrace 21 housing cooperative. Further financial support was obtained from Nationwide Foundation, Power To Change, Homes and Communities Agency, National Lottery, National CLT Network, Steve Biko Housing and Plus Dane Group, North West Arts Council, Trust House Foundation.

What impact has it had?

Granby 4 Streets has had an impact on Liverpool City Council’s thinking towards housing regeneration and how the council engages with local communities. There is evidence that the council has changed its approach to demolition. In 2016, another much larger area of derelict houses that was scheduled for demolition has been handed to developers for renovation.

Granby 4 Streets is cited in Liverpool Council policy as an example of community-led development. Granby 4 Streets are mentioned as proponents of good practice in terms of how residents and city officials work in partnership. They are also part of the Re: Kreators European network and they have recently presented to EU Urban Agenda ministers as proponents of good practice.

How is it funded?

Granby 4 Streets is moving towards a position of being financially sustainable. Income from rent for the houses, shops and workshop will pay the operating cost of the Community Land Trust and repayments on loans. They have calculated that every house they rent produces a surplus of £3,500 (USD $4,500) a year, which can be invested into the Community Land Trust. The set-up costs and capital costs for development work have been met by a series of grants and loans. The grants amount to £900,000 (USD $1.1 million) and are made up by:

  • £14,800 (USD $19,000) CLT feasibility grant (National CLT Network).
  • £128,000 (USD $164,000) affordable homes grant (Nationwide Foundation).
  • £32,000 (USD $41,000) feasibility grant (Homes & Communities Agency).
  • £37,500 (USD $48,000) grant (DCLG).
  • £10,000 (USD $13,000) feasibility grant – Four Corners (Heritage Lottery).
  • £10,000 (USD $13,000) project activity grant (Awards for All).
  • £385,000 (USD $ 496,000) community business development (Power to Change).
  • £249,000 (USD $ 321,000) Winter Garden (Arts Council).
  • £40,000 (USD $ 51,000) Winter Garden (Trusthouse Foundation).

There was also a development loan of £500,000 (USD $640,000) from Steinbeck Studio (the Jersey-based investor referred to earlier) in the project description. As Granby 4 Streets move into the next stage of their development, they are planning to use the sale of five homes to meet some of the costs. Projected income from the sale of Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust’s five homes is £450,000 – £600,000 (USD $580,000 – USD $772,000) depending on valuations and confirmation of ‘affordability’ criteria at the point of sale.

Why is it innovative?

Granby 4 Streets is unique in the UK as a community-led regeneration of an entire neighbourhood. It is all the more remarkable because the community is amongst the poorest in the UK and has experienced perhaps the most extreme decline and dereliction seen anywhere in the UK in peacetime.

Ronnie Hughes, one of the founders and a Granby 4 Streets Trustee, said:

What’s happening in Granby is an important prototype for northern councils, who’ve been so badly hit by the cuts, two years ago, the whole area was nearly signed over to a private developer, but now the people who live here have finally got a formal stake in the place. It’s an extraordinary achievement – and now it’s extraordinary forever”

Community Land Trusts are relatively new to the UK, and although the number is steadily growing, Granby 4 Streets is the first Community Land Trust to focus on the renovation of existing buildings. Their regeneration model is innovative internationally and has been recognised by Swiss Community-Led Housing specialists Urbamonde as an international case study.

Granby 4 Streets has embraced art as a means towards regeneration. This has seen it commission innovative designs and architecture and has encouraged creativity. This approach has led to the creation of a social enterprise and has helped engage the wider community. In addition, this has led to wider recognition, most notably by winning the 2015 Turner Prize. The Turner Prize is the UK’s most prestigious art award and is organised by the Tate Gallery. This has opened up wide media attention and has considerably boosted fundraising activities.

What is the environmental impact?

The project involves the renovation of existing buildings rather than demolition and reconstruction, making use of existing resources and maintaining original structures where possible. Granby 4 Streets has ensured that the DIY spirit from which the Community Land Trust emerged and a desire to reduce environmental impact are incorporated into their designs, e.g. the Granby Rock household appliances manufactured by Granby Workshop.

One of the first activities of the community group which predated Granby 4 Streets was community gardening. The group that continues this work, the affiliated ‘Blooming Triangle’, have renovated and created new green spaces with the local community. They continue to work with residents in maintaining the status as winners of the North West in Bloom and as finalists in Street of the Year 2015 by The Academy of Urbanism, in making Granby the greenest area in the city. Granby 4 Streets has also leased five homes to Terrace 21, an eco-cooperative, who will retrofit five homes to ‘passiv haus’ standard.

Is it financially sustainable?

Granby 4 Streets is on a path towards financial sustainability. It has a 30 year business plan which sees the organisation become fully financially sustainable by 2021. Its early work was reliant on grants for capital costs and volunteers carrying out activities to keep revenue costs to a minimum. As the Community Land Trust grows it will develop more income generating potential. Income will derive from letting houses, leasing housing to other housing associations, letting meeting-room space and, in the future, it plans to lease shop space.

Granby 4 Streets has been very successful in fundraising to support the early development and initial capital costs of the project. They have also worked with social investors to access social finance. They aim to ensure that the organisation will not be reliant on restricted income or grants and will be able to further develop using their own generated income.

What is the social impact?

Granby 4 Streets has provided a focus for community dialogue and action, in a previously disempowered and ignored community. They have created a strong sense of solidarity around housing, green spaces and community ownership. Local volunteers have been instrumental in developing the projects and have been supported to develop their own capacity in all areas of the Community Land Trust’s operation.

Residents have been given the opportunity to come together and collaborate with international artists delivering sculpture and installations. Granby Workshop, a new social enterprise making bespoke household goods on Granby Street, employs 14 young local artists/creatives, working towards delivering orders from the Turner Prize exhibition. Granby Workshop have recently showcased at the International Business Festival 2016 in Liverpool. Granby Workshop will occupy space within the planned retail units to act as the hub for local retail, social and creative enterprises bringing further economic activity.

Granby Market has continued to expand and recently moved onto the main road, Granby Street, enabling it to grow and making it more prominent and visible. Building upon previous activity they have attracted internationally recognised poets and musicians to perform and co-produce with residents an atmosphere, activities and a sense of cohesion. This contributes towards the health and wellbeing of an engaged group of residents building their own social capital. Granby 4 Streets has to date created 50 new jobs in building construction, art and community organising. This is significant in an area where unemployment remains amongst the highest in the UK, especially among young people. The refurbishment not only boosted the local economy but also offered valuable training and employment opportunities.

Barriers

Granby 4 Streets overcame a huge barrier in negotiating the transfer of ownership of houses from Liverpool City Council to the Community Land Trust. This is particularly remarkable given the historic relationship between the community and the council. Other barriers it overcame include:

  • Commissioning competent and reliable contractors.
  • Additional building works outside the scope of the project due to unforeseen problems.
  • Volunteer board members having sufficient skills to oversee the works and feel comfortable challenging contractor decisions.
  • Obtaining funding that was flexible and responsive.
  • Establishing legal covenants to ensure that the properties meet mortgage criteria and are affordable for low-income community members in perpetuity.

They overcame these challenges by recruiting a specialist to help the board including representatives of Liverpool City Council and Steve Biko Housing Association (Liverpool’s only Black and minority ethnic (BME) housing group).

Lessons Learned

  • The need to evolve throughout the project lifespan and adapt the ways in which they work.
  • To stay focused on project aims and objectives rather than adapting the scheme or ideas to fit around funders’ criteria and timescales.
  • The importance of ensuring that the Board have the right skill set to deliver the project and having a plan to meet any gaps identified.
  • There was a need to commission specialist contractors to assist where there were gaps in expertise and knowledge such as contractor law and project management.

Evaluation

There is no formal project evaluation. The various funders have required regular feedback and some have commissioned external evaluations.

Recognition

  • The Granby 4 Streets Project was awarded the Turner Prize 2015 with their architects Assemble.
  • One of the four streets: Cairns Street was a finalist in the 2015 Academy of Urbanism’s UK Street of the Year.
  • Granby 4 Streets won a European urbaMonde Community-Led Housing Award in 2016 and they have recently been named in Nesta’s 50 New Radical Organisations.
  • Granby 4 Streets has attracted national media attention including items on BBC TV news and articles in the Guardian, Independent and Daily Mail newspapers.
  • They have also been used as a case study in a number of architectural, urban planning, geography and sociology dissertations, theses and peer reviewed articles. They have also contributed to a BBC programme on the history of architecture in the UK, appeared on several media arts and cultural programmes across Europe.

Transfer

The work of Granby 4 Streets has inspired and encouraged local housing associations to acquire and renovate empty properties within Granby. Current programmes by three housing associations will see 72 houses returned to use.

Granby 4 Streets is currently working with other groups across Liverpool, e.g. Homebaked Coming Home (social enterprise for bringing empty homes into use). They share their experience of moving from activism to organisational structures. They are collating what they believe are the important methodological approaches they took at each stage to share with other working class communities in other cities

Granby 4 Streets regularly hosts visitors to share their experiences with others. For example they run workshops (60 in 2016) for planning, architectural and social science students to influence place making and creating spaces for democratic management.

Authors:

Rent to Buy Scheme

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Rent to Buy Scheme

Mismatches Services Diversity
Policies and regulations Regulation Building capacity
Urban Design Liveability Regulación Técnica
Promotion and production Self-management

Main objectives of the project

Date

  • 2015:

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: World Habitat

Location

City: Inverness
Country/Region: United Kingdom

Description

The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) ‘Rent to Buy Scheme’ helps people on low income living in the remote highlands of Scotland to find an affordable home. At the heart of the scheme is a financial mechanism which enables low income families to save up to buy a home whilst they are renting it.

 

Project Description

Aims and Objectives

  • The main aim of this programme is to provide local people in some of the remotest communities of the UK with access to affordable housing and to ensure that the houses that are built remain affordable into the future.
  • The benefits of the scheme extend beyond those who buy the homes. Local contractors benefit from the construction work when the houses are built. Indeed the scheme specifically targets small local building firms. HSCHT also supports training and development and provides a route into apprenticeships for local young people in rural communities. This support is provided in partnership with the University of Highlands and Islands and the contractors employed to deliver Rent to Buy properties.
  • Rural communities retain a greater mix of people, helping local employers retain staff.
  • The affordability of the homes is protected over the long term through a legal mechanism.
  • Local authorities also benefit from reduced pressure on the housing waiting list.

The Rent to Buy Scheme is one of a number of approaches used by the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust to help small rural communities access affordable housing. The model was designed by HSCHT and is being delivered in partnership with the Scottish Government and the Highlands Council.

The scheme builds new houses and lets them to families at below market rents. Part of the rent is retained by HSCHT and is available as a lump sum that is used as a deposit to buy the house. The scheme is self-financing and does not require a government grant but is supported with development loans from the Scottish Government.

Context

The Scottish Highlands is a huge area covering much of the North of Scotland. As its name suggests it is a mountainous, remote and undeniably beautiful area. It is one of the most sparsely populated parts of Europe, comparable in population density only with Northern Sweden and Finland. The area has become increasingly depopulated over many years.

The Highlands has a thriving tourist industry, which provides employment but does create distortions in the housing market. A large amount of the housing stock is used as second homes and holiday lets. This limits the amount that is available for the local population to rent or buy. The problem is particularly acute in the summer when tourists and seasonal workers in the tourist industry occupy much of the available housing. The effect of this is many local people are forced into inadequate or inconvenient alternatives (for example using caravans or ‘sofa surfing’). Many families unable to find decent housing choose to leave the area altogether.

Since the economic crash of 2008, the availability of mortgages has become much more restricted in the UK. In particular lenders require large deposits (often 25 per cent of the house value) before they will offer a mortgage. House prices in the Highlands vary, but because incomes in rural areas trend to be lower than in urban areas, the ratio of incomes to prices makes renting and buying expensive. For families, repayments on a mortgage remain comparable to the price of renting. This means that many families who could afford to buy a house are unable to do so because of they do not have enough savings to pay the deposit.

Key features

Rent to Buy is a financial model which provides affordable access to home ownership. Tenants rent a property through the scheme with the option to buy it after five years. If they take this option they get a cash-back sum to help them with their mortgage deposit. The selling price is fixed, based on its value at the beginning of the five year term. This provides certainty for tenants and a potential benefit for them if the house goes up in value.

The scheme uses loan finance so the funds can be recycled. Interest on the original loan is repaid on the sale of the home making the scheme cost neutral. Rent levels are set so they can be covered by state benefits if the household has a low income. This means that tenants have a safety net if their income drops or they become unemployed during the scheme.

Affordability is protected using a legal mechanism (called the Rural Housing Burden); this gives HSCHT the right to purchase the property back from the owner if the owner decides to sell it. It means that HSCHT can allocate the house to another family who fits the criteria at the same equity share. This mechanism protects the future affordability of the property.

What impact has it had?

The scheme has provided 30 new affordable homes, with another 34 under development. In 34 small communities, housing 143 people and helping to sustain rural communities. Twenty-two local construction firms have been involved in delivering the schemes. Many have strengthened their links with local communities and have been able to protect their employees and retain their workforce. Young people have also had the opportunity to access training with contractors.
Funding has been agreed for a further phase. HSCHT are identifying sites and carrying out feasibility and financial viability studies.

The project has helped to raise awareness and increase the focus on rural affordable housing delivery both locally and nationally. The cost neutral nature of the scheme has drawn considerable interest as reductions in government subsidy on housing have been introduced in Scotland and other parts of the UK.

The Scottish Government is keen to see the scheme made available across Scotland.

The affordability of the housing has been protected by the ‘Rural Housing Burden’, ensuring that the new properties remain available to local people and aren’t sold on the open market.

HSCHT uses small local contractors and supports local business wherever possible. The houses are modern in design, and use large amounts of timber in their construction. This reduces embodied carbon and allows the houses to be highly energy efficient. Although designed locally, many of the houses look very different from traditional local houses which tend to be built from rendered stone or brick.

HSCHT supports local employment and training by working with the University of Highlands and Islands allowing contractors to set up apprenticeships for local young people.

Community engagement sits alongside the process of delivering Rent to Buy homes. In particular communities are able to feed into allocations policies so that they are able to take account of specific issues (such as a need for key workers like teachers or carers).

How is it funded?

The Scottish Government provides a development loan to cover the house building costs for the scheme. They have so far provided three loans to cover three building phases. For each phase the loan is due to be repaid after six years. The rental income covers the interest on the loan, maintenance, insurance and provides the cash back reserve paid to the tenants when they purchase the homes. HSCHT retains any surplus to contribute to its overheads.

 

Why is it innovative?

  • The project achieves the remarkable feat of providing high quality housing at a below market price without the need for government grant.
  • The model is transferable and can be used by others, for example communities or local businesses. The approach also supports the rural economy. Building contracts allow and encourage the use of local contractors.
  • For households in need of affordable housing with limited access to finance, the cashback element of the scheme gives them a deposit. This accumulates from rental payments over the five year rental period, meaning households don’t have to stretch themselves financially. A fixed price at the outset gives certainty to households using the scheme.

 

What is the environmental impact?

In the Scottish Highlands the weather can be particularly challenging and a focus on high levels of insulation, air tightness, suitable heating systems and the use of renewable technologies where needed (for example photo voltaic panels) have been encouraged on all builds, all of which reduce the running costs of a home.

The first phase of the Rent to Buy Scheme includes seven different developments. Each contractor chose their own house design as appropriate for the site conditions and location. Features include careful design and siting to reduce wind cooling and to increase passive solar gain; high levels of insulation; elimination of fabric thermal bridging and high levels of air-tightness; wood fuel stoves with back up electric heating; low dual flush WC’s; and flow reduced/aerating taps and showers rated at no more than 6 litres of water per minute.

The use of local contractors and local materials also reduces the overall carbon footprint of building activity.

 

Is it financially sustainable?

The Rent to Buy Scheme is self-financing. It creates an income through rent payments and the sale of the houses. The income pays for the cost of running the scheme and allows funds to be reinvested into building new houses.

The scheme generates a predictable income for HSCHT. This has enabled them to retain a skilled staff team. The scheme has helped to raise HSCHT’s profile within communities and with local and national government; providing greater funding opportunities for other projects and schemes.
The use of local contractors ensures as much of the investment as possible remains and circulates within the community and supports other local businesses, shops and services.

 

What is the social impact?

HSCHT works with a network of councils and other bodies such as local development companies – these partnerships have helped to identify a hidden housing need within rural areas. Building more affordable homes in hard to reach rural areas reduces the pressure on more highly populated areas. It also strengthens informal care networks and helps to retain key workers locally (key workers provide essential services, for example health workers, fire fighters, teachers or police). Not only do these benefits reduce costs for central and local government, they also ensure an improved quality of life for people living in rural communities.

Affordable homes help communities retain families with a range of incomes and skills. Training and development provided through the scheme also improves opportunities for young people in rural communities.

 

Barriers

Land needs to be purchased at well below market value. This limits the scheme to places where either public land can be transferred or where there are legal obligations, or where a local landowner is prepared to sell land at a greatly reduced price.

The scheme relies on low interest rates on the loan capital; this was provided by the Scottish government. The scheme also relies on mortgages being affordable for families taking part in the scheme. The UK has benefited from low interest rates in recent years. A rise in the future may affect the attractiveness and viability of the scheme in future.

Some mortgage lenders do not lend on properties with the Rural Housing Burden. This narrows the range of lenders for purchasers.

For Phase 1, there was a short window of opportunity to use “underspend” funding provided by the Scottish Government, so the final project had to be drafted over just four months. This included land purchases, providing a certificate of title for each of the landholdings, assessing total project costs, potential cashbacks and selling prices, agreeing loan drawdown schedules and creating the draft offer for each tenant/purchaser.

The topography of the Highlands creates challenges for building, for example where there is a steep slope. On one site this was addressed by building into the hillside and on another by building a house on stilts. This added to the building costs.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Talk to as many local partner organisations and involve them wherever is feasible. They could have land, expertise and/or access to finance that may be useful.
  • Carry out extensive feasibility work to make sure sites are viable and identify any development issues prior to starting construction activity. Some sites will be rejected but budget overspends will be prevented. Build in a realistic contingency in the financial assessment – there is always something unexpected.
  • A clear design brief should be provided to contractors at the beginning. Smaller firms can be encouraged to tender for contracts through flexible procurement processes.
  • In working with local contractors allow flexibility in the contract. Delaying the start of a build by a month or two may allow the contractor to meet the contract terms more easily. Maintaining open communication channels is important.
  • Working with local contractors is worthwhile in challenging build environments – they are more aware of local issues and can come up with inventive solutions.
  • Continuously look out for potential future building sites. Always have a few back up sites in case additional funds become available.

 

Evaluation

In 2015, the Scottish Government carried out an evaluation of the project to explore the possibility of rolling the model out across Scotland. This has yet to be published.

Follow up surveys with tenants will be carried out after around 18 – 24 months of moving in to their homes when they will be asked to quantify (as far as possible) the impact of access to an affordable home on them and their family.

 

Transfer

A second and third phase have been agreed by the Scottish Government and this will extend the scheme to more areas of the Highlands. The Scottish Government are keen to use the model across all areas of Scotland. Other organisations have also been keen to find out more, for example, communities looking to invest community benefit funds, community landowners and other housing providers, such as Housing Associations.

So far (in 2015), no other organisation has adopted the scheme but the Scottish Government is supportive of the housing model and may use it in other areas in the future.

Authors:

Lilac (Low Impact Living Affordable Community)

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Lilac (Low Impact Living Affordable Community)

Mismatches Services Demographic/Urban growth New family structures
Policies and regulations Building capacity Global frameworks
Urban Design Environments Equity
Promotion and production Site&services

Main objectives of the project

Date

  • 2015:

Stakeholders

Location

Continent: Europe
City: Leeds
Country/Region: Leeds, United Kingdom

Description

Lilac is a self-planned and managed co-housing community in Leeds, England. It embraces the concept of living sustainably and communally. Members of Lilac have their own individual homes but share financial responsibility, the land, the development and day to day management of the project. This supports greater resilience and provides permanently affordable housing.