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Community led housing

The council has an ambition to increase the number of affordable homes in its area in order to support local communities and local economies.

Community led housing is one way of delivering additional affordable housing using the enthusiasm of local people to create well designed and well positioned affordable housing which are managed by local people. It has been proven to be a way of unlocking the smaller, difficult and rural exception sites and engaging local people to ensure as much public support for the development as possible.

The council is currently actively supporting community led housing in a number of ways and there are plans to expand this support to meet a growing local demand.

What is a community led housing project?

Community led housing is where people and communities play a leading and lasting role in their own housing solutions by developing and managing homes. By working together, people can provide good quality and affordable housing for those who are priced out of the housing market. Open and meaningful community participation and consent takes place throughout the process. At the end of the project the community group or organisation owns, manages or stewards the homes in whichever way they decide to.

Community led housing is an umbrella term which covers a range of approaches including community land trusts, housing co-operatives, cohousing, mutual homeownership, Almshouses, self-help housing and community self-build.

Community land trusts

A community land trust is a not for profit organisation that is made up of community members. They are community organisations that develop housing, community facilities, or other assets to meet the needs of the community. Companies limited by guarantee, community interest companies and community benefit societies can all be established as community land trusts.

The process a community land trust follows is firstly to acquire land, either by buying it, on a long-lease or as a gift, secondly to oversee the development of affordable housing to rent or buy and lastly to remain a steward when the homes are complete.

There are different ways of organising a community land trust:

  1. Stand-alone community land trust: In a stand-alone community land trust, the community land trust takes full responsibility for funding, planning and development. The community land trust may choose to manage and maintain the completed properties or contract with a housing association to do this work for them.
  2. Partnering with a housing association: In this type of community land trust, the community land trust owns the freehold and the Housing Association has a long term lease on the land. The community land trust leads on finding a site, and deciding on the numbers and design of the homes. The housing association funds the development and develops, manages and maintains the homes.

Co-operative Housing

Housing co-operatives are non profit housing organisations where members democratically control and manage their homes. Some housing co-operatives own the homes that they manage, some lease them from another organisation (e.g. a housing association) and some manage properties that belong to a different landlord, such as their local council.

Unlike some other types of community led housing the membership of a co-operatives is limited strictly to its residents. The community in question is made up of the people living together.


Co-housing schemes are intentional communities, created and run by residents who share a vision of how they wish to live. They can mix tenures with different degrees of equity.

Each household has a self contained home exclusively for their use but they also share some communal space where they can choose to spend time collectively, such sharing meals.

Mutual Homeownership

Mutual homeownership is a form of property tenure for those on intermediate incomes to obtain an equity stake.

Residents form a mutual home ownership society which owns the homes and has a collective mortgage. Residents pay towards costs (usually based on household income) and have an equity share.


Almshouses began in medieval times and are usually run by a group of trustees.

An almshouse trust could expand, creating new homes alongside existing properties. For example, it could renovate or refurbish an existing building, or build new homes for its community.

Self-help housing

Self help housing projects refurbish existing properties and often offer a range of opportunities for ‘hands on’ involvement by members during the refurbishment process.

There are two ways in which this can work:

  1. Properties could be purchased and then refurbished. This would require funding for both acquisition and refurbishment.
  2. Properties could be leased and refurbished. In this case it would only be necessary to cover the cost of renovation. Properties need to be leased for long enough to make it financially viable from a co-operative landlord, such as a local authority or housing association, and ideally at a pepper corn rent.

Group self-build or collective custom-build

A self build scheme can fall into the community led housing category if it involves members of the community coming together to build their own homes. An individual self build scheme is not a community scheme.

Self builders might undertake most of the work or use contractors for some or all of the build. The self build group could be a co-operatives or a community land trust.

Where to go for help

If you believe that a community led housing scheme would be of interest in your community and you are interested in finding out more about any of the options above, the following organisations can help or advise you:

Dorset and Somerset community led housing hub

They offer advice and practical assistance from conception to completion.

Dorset and Somerset Community Housing Hub

The national community land trusts network

This is the official charity supporting community land trusts (CLTs) in England and Wales. They provide funding, resources, training and advice for community land trusts and is part of a broad alliance of organisations promoting and supporting community led housing in England.

National Community Land Trust Network

Community led homes

Has a network of advisors across the UK and community led housing hubs across England.

Community Led Homes

The Almshouse Association

Supports and represents almshouses across the UK.

The Almshouse Association

UK cohousing network

Provides information about cohousing and established and developing projects.

UK Cohousing

The national custom and self build association

Provides information and support to people who want to access self build, custom build and community led housing.

The National Custom and Self Build Association

The Confederation of Co-operative Housing

Supports co-operative and community led housing organisations.

The Confederation of Co-operative Housing

Last reviewed: March 4, 2024 by Ian

Next review due: September 4, 2024

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