Self-help housing: an alternative model reducing housing shortage


With a growing number of people in need of housing, it is unacceptable that so many houses are left empty, often over many years. Building new homes is crucial, but not the only way out of the housing crisis; developing solutions for a better and easier use of empty homes is equally important.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has allocated £100m as part of it’s Empty Homes Grants Programme in support of bringing empty homes back into use. £70m will go to registered providers and housing associations, which will be available via the Homes and Communities Agency, and £30m has been allocated to 95 community-led housing organisations.

HACT, in partnership with Self-Help, are continuing their capacity building programme for these community organisations, supporting them in the creation of lasting partnerships with housing associations and local authorities, assisting them with the creation of peer networks and learning resources, and helping them with project feasibility and access to loan finance.

Self-help housing is a way through which groups of people bring back into use empty properties that are in limbo, awaiting decisions about the future use or their redevelopment. Self-help housing groups negotiate with the owners of empty properties and organise the repairs necessary to make them habitable. These are often groups of people who cannot afford to buy their own housing and whose housing needs are such that they will not be offered a permanent tenancy by the local authority or a housing association, some examples include single people, couples, young people and refugees. The properties are often “borrowed” on the basis of a licence or sometimes a lease, for a specified period of time. On occasion, future plans change and the buildings may even become available on a permanent basis.

It’s not a solution for everyone, but restoring and utilising empty properties is a real possibility, of which many are unaware. HACT and Self-Help are committed to helping everyone who wants to explore this option.

The aim of the HACT and Self-help housing programme is to advance community-led housing solutions to help meet the growing housing need. These community organisations are developing far-reaching solutions, often at very small and local scale. As part of the programme, we are organising regional network meetings to bring these groups together and exchange practices. Regional meetings will take place in Leeds (17 Oct), Stockton (24 Oct), London (25 Oct / 14 Nov), Manchester (2 Nov) and Birmingham (6 Nov). Please contact Line Algoed at if you wish to attend any of these meetings or if you would like further information on self-help housing.


Find out more about self help housing at

Find out more information on the regional events for successfully bidding community-led organisations.