Community groups that work with local people to bring empty properties back into
use should be promoted and supported by the government as part of its Big Society agenda, says a new report by the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF).
It claims that self-help housing has many benefits including increased localism, a reduction in the number of empty homes, and active community participation.
"Self-help housing projects are about local people improving their own circumstances and their neighbourhoods. This seems to be a prime example of the government's vision of a Big Society," said Jim Vine, Head of UK programmes at BSHF. "It is now vital that policies are structured to ensure they can thrive, so we can see many more of these projects in communities across the country. This does not necessarily mean any extra money from the government, but it does mean that existing pots of funding are made accessible to these local community groups.'
Recommendations within the report include:
- Legislative and funding frameworks should actively promote small local organisations involved in self-help housing and recognise the community benefits that they can provide. This should include use of the £100m Empty Homes Programme, and more opportunities for permanent asset transfer for self-help housing should be created.
- Charitable trusts should consider establishing a development fund for self-help housing similar to one that has encouraged the growth of community land trusts - this could help organisations meet the upfront costs which are often a barrier to beginning new schemes.
- Local authorities, ALMOs (Arms Length Management Organisations) and housing associations should be encouraged to build partnerships with organisations undertaking self help housing. This could bring mutual benefits such as tackling empty properties and developing training opportunities.
- A national facilitator, such as self-help-housing.org, should deliver support to develop and promote self help housing.
Many of the critical factors contained within the report are based on research by the Third Sector Research Centre. You can read the full BSHF report here and the initial TSRC report here
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