HACT's Housing Intern Jamie van Iersel talks about her experience working closely on HACT's community-led housing initiatives and the Self-Help Housing project.
Whilst working at HACT for about four months now, I have had the pleasure of working on some great projects within the social housing sector. One that rings true to my heart is an ambiguous one due to its ever-changing official title, but to me it includes anything within which the community is involved to help shape their neighbourhoods, whether it be through building homes or renovating old ones.
I've been working closely on community-led housing innitiatives - which covers co-housing and partners with Community Land Trusts and many others. I have also been working on HACT's Self-Help Housing project - a movement renovating empty properties for affordable rents.
After holding several meetings across the country and meeting the small and large organisations getting involved in these projects, I am now even more convinced that the sweat, blood and tears being put in are well worth the outcomes achiveved. Although it may not be obvious to the passer-by, but hundreds of small community-led and community-based groups or organisations exist in the UK. More than simply existing, they fight for their communities and for the right to affordable housing. They fill in the gaps which are otherwise leaving a path to homelessness.
Organisations such as Canopy Housing, Latch and PHASES, just to name a few, are busy renovating vast numbers of empty homes, employing local staff, training apprentices, and then housing the very people that help refurbish them - who have been, in many instances, previously homeless.
Housing associations such as North Star, and Plus Dane, amongst others, are key role models in the sector showing how well-positioned and wealthy organisations can assist smaller communities groups to address the blights and social issues affecting local neighbourhoods, whether it be through revamping a previously empty property or not.
Whilst great work is going on, there is still a long way to go. Recognition (and of course funding) is well deserved and much needed. The belief that these small communities will one day become more recognised and more powerful still remains to be seen. At HACT we will continue to conduct research into this area, to support both housing associations and community organisations in their endeavours and to build networks and continue to host events to share best practice.