“While he has few easy options, renewing the Community Housing Fund would be popular, would deliver truly affordable homes and would represent a decent return on investment.”Gary Hartin, Programme Manager for the Nationwide Foundation’s Backing Community-Led Housing programme.
Most of us have been there at one time or another, doing the weekly shop, with half an eye on what we can actually afford. For the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, the shopping list he presents at the upcoming Spending Review will be very heavily scrutinized. He will be expected to present popular funding decisions, despite trying to balance the books.
While he has few easy options, in renewing the Community Housing Fund he’s presented with an opportunity that will prove popular, delivers truly affordable homes and represents a decent return on investment. The good thing, if you’re Rishi Sunak, is that there’s also a growing evidence base in support of community-led housing that should put his mind at ease while he’s doing the sums.
Firstly, research delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre in 2019 showed the benefits of community-led housing, to those involved in developing the housing, as well as to the people living in the homes once they were built. These benefits included improved mental wellbeing, better employability and reduced feelings of loneliness.
Secondly, evidence published by Capital Economics in 2020 and commissioned by the Community Land Trust Network showed that community-led housing is a sound financial investment that continues to pay dividends for decades. This report noted that for every £1 of public money spent on the sector, a return of £2.70 is realised after 10 years and this return becomes £3.10 after 30 years.
Finally, in research published just last month, the scale of the opportunity was confirmed. In a report delivered by the Community Land Trust Network, a pipeline of 12,000 community-led homes was revealed. These are homes already in the planning stages, ready to be delivered over the next four years.
With the evidence considered, we hope that Rishi Sunak will do the right thing at the Spending Review. He has the opportunity to unlock the pipeline, deliver housing that changes lives and commit to a very shrewd investment of public money. This said, it’s the supermarket’s favourite – a limited time offer. The risk is that starved of sustainable funding, too many of the planned homes won’t become a reality.
I recognise that anybody managing the nation’s finances right now has a tough job, Number 11 Downing Street isn’t the most desirable address when the responsibilities shouldered by its occupant are considered. However, community-led housing presents a real opportunity. That’s why it should go straight to the top of Mr Sunak’s shopping list.