A Right To Build Community-led Housing?

All eyes seem to be on Glastonbury this week!  A week when thousands of people from all over the country celebrate our flair for the unusual, for the unconventional, for the unorthodox!

It’s a week when those visiting the extraordinary Glastonbury Festival find themselves re-imagining – even for a short time – what it is to have a home…  many living in a tent, or a yurt, or a tipi for the week; others arriving in the multitude of live-in vehicles, converted buses, campervans, gypsy vardos, and – this year – possibly a house boat or two!

Photo by Paul Townsend - https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/18528387403 ‘Glastonbury Festival 2015’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo by Paul Townsend – https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/18528387403
‘Glastonbury Festival 2015’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It’s a week when a mass of modern-day pilgrims converge upon our Green and Pleasant Land ;  many of them purveying off-grid life-styles – especially those in The Green Fields – generating energy with solar panels, wind-turbines, vegetable oil, and even pedal-power!  It’s certainly a week when we can consider ‘the alternative’…

Photo by Lewis Clarke - http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4619983 ‘Glastonbury Town Scenery’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo by Lewis Clarke – http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4619983
‘Glastonbury Town Scenery’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Having a home is a big issue in Glastonbury; there seems to be more people wishing to live in our town than houses available!   It’s an issue compounded by the physical constraints of the landscape… We are, after all, an island – a fact highlighted by the regular flooding of the levels and moors that surround us!

Housing is not only a big issue; it’s also an emotive subject!  I have listened to many residents who feel there is a genuine social housing need in Glastonbury.  Anecdotal evidence would suggest that there are a lot of people – not just incomers, but those born-and-bred – who struggle with high rents in this town; who need affordable homes (and by that, I mean truly affordable) – not just houses for sale, but decent homes to rent (for an unarguable fair rent!).

‘Housing Estate Glastonbury’ Photo by Derek Harper Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
‘Housing Estate Glastonbury’ Photo by Derek Harper Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The perceived problem is that many of the new builds don’t seem to address our local housing need.  Rather, they’re commercial developments, primarily for sale; to maximise profit for the developer.  Many appear to be sold to new people who want to come and live in the town, or to those who buy-to-let… and we’ve all witnessed the worst-case scenario of private landlords in the local press – headlines such as: ‘Glastonbury woman left homeless after being forced to choose between eviction or electrocution’…

Of course, Glastonbury needs new homes; new people to bring fresh ideas and energy into our community… but – surely – our new developments must address Glastonbury’s actual housing need, not just compound it!  To this end, one of the first things Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan hopes to undertake is a Housing Needs Assessment, to verify any previous primary research and establish a methodological survey of the situation.

That being said, there’s already a number of Glastonbury residents interested in ‘the alternative’; in addressing the lack of affordable/social housing in imaginative and creative ways.  People willing to explore and consider the potential of small scale community-led housing developments in the town – perhaps through the creation of a Community Land Trust or Housing Co-operative; perhaps by using the evidence collected during the Neighbourhood Planning process to prepare a Community Right to Build order.

towards the future CCF 1Hot on the heels of the Festival, on Thursday 30th June – between 1 pm and 3 pm – Somerset Co-operative Services (SCS) are hosting an event called ‘Co-operative housing: a better way of living’ at Glastonbury Town Hall.

SCS’s Alex Lawrie spoke about the event recently saying:  “Imagine a form of housing with no mortgage hanging over you, and no landlord ripping you off. Whether you want to live in the town or country, as a family or single occupants, co-operatives can offer a good deal. Together, create new homes by extending existing properties or building from scratch. Find the mix of rent and investment that suits your members.  Come along to find out more!

If you’re interested in the unusual, the unconventional, the unorthodox – in truly imaginative and creative housing solutions – in ‘the alternative’, then why not join us?


Somerset Co-operative Services’ housing info-sheets:
What’s a Housing Co-operative?
What’s a Community Land Trust?

Further support for Community-led Housing:
Locality’s Early Stage Support programme – funded by the Nationwide Foundation – offers expert mentoring and small grants to help affordable community-led housing projects get started.  Find out more HERE

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