Types of community led housing

Community led housing includes a variety of models. We’ve described a few below but they can be combined in different ways and you may well come up with your own innovative approach. There are no rules or one-size-fits-all in community led housing and that is the beauty of it – it can be adapted to create the right solution for your community. Talking to us is a good place to start – we are here to help you consider your options and the best way to achieve your objectives.

Firstly, it’s useful to know that community led housing can start in different ways:

  1. Grassroots activism – a group of local people or a community of interest come together to take action and drive change
  2. Existing community organisations – existing organisations like community anchors and development trusts can be well placed to extend their current activities by moving into housing, to better meet the needs of their community, build an asset base and generate additional income
  3. Initiated by a developer – a local authority, landowner, housing association or small builder may want to provide housing that benefits the local area in perpetuity. They can initiate the development of a community led housing group or organisation to work in partnership with.


Cohousing communities are intentional communities, created and run by their residents. Each household has a self-contained, private home as well as shared community space. Residents come together to manage their community, share activities and regularly eat together. Cohousing communities are formed on the basis of five primary principles:

  1. Co-designed with intentional communities. This often means that the community shares values and a vision for living in a certain way e.g. increased connectivity or being environmentally conscious
  2. Includes private and common facilities, providing a balance between privacy and community
  3. Usually between 10-40 households to support community dynamics and interactions
  4. Embeds collective resident control and stewardship into its legal form and decision making
  5. They are inclusive and part of the wider community

OWCH in North London is an example of a Cohousing scheme, providing homes and community for older women. In the West Midlands, some early stage Cohousing projects include Birmingham Community Cohousing and Cohousing West Midlands.

The UK Cohousing Network website is a good place to learn more about this model.

Community Land Trusts

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are set up and run by ordinary people to develop, manage, and own homes as well as other assets in their community, like community enterprises, food growing or workspaces. CLTs provide affordable homes for local people by acquiring land and holding it as a community asset in perpetuity. CLTs act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area – not just for now but for every future occupier.

Award-winning Granby Four Streets CLT in Liverpool is one example of this model. They bought 10 empty homes from the Council to regenerate an area in serious disrepair. We also have a few CLTs in development in the West Midlands, including Stourbridge Community Land Trust, which is creating 11 new affordable, environmentally sustainable homes for young creatives in the heart of town through its Stourbridge PowerHaus project.

The National Community Land Trust Network website is a good place to learn more about this model.

Community Self and Custom build

Community self-build involves groups of local people in need of housing building homes for themselves with external support and managing the process collectively.

Custom build is when people are able to specific an individual home through a more ‘hands-off’ journey. Under this model, an enabling developer delivers a spectrum of services ranging from creating a serviced plot all the way to delivering a complete bespoke turnkey home for an individual or group.

Bristol CLT’s development at Fishponds road is one example of Community Custom Build. They developed 12 homes for shared ownership and affordable rent, with each resident becoming a member of the CLT. Residents played an active role in the design phase and were also able to self-finish their homes, sharing the work to complete kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and more.

The National Custom and Self Build Association website is a good place to learn more about this model.

Development Trusts & Community Anchors

ommunity anchor organisations and development trusts come in different forms. They are generally independent, locally-focussed and often charitable. What is important is the role that they play in their community and the way they work. They are often the driving force in a neighbourhood, the facilitator of community activity and the way for local people of all ages to get involved in shaping their future. Sometimes these organisations are set up specifically to provide housing, often they do a multitude of things.

We have some fantastic community anchors and development trusts across the West Midlands providing homes for their community, such as Witton Lodge Community Association, who grew from a Residents’ Association. There are a number of community anchors branching out into housing too, such as the partnership between Jericho and St Paul’s Community Development Trust, who are joining forces to create a new CLT to regenerate Balsall Heath. Affordable homes will be built by a social enterprise professional construction company which gives employment opportunities to people who need them the most. There are a number of others pursuing community led housing projects around the region too – so do ask us if you would like to learn more.

Housing Co-operatives

Co-operatives, whether housing or business, are democratic, not-for-profit organisations run by and for their members. The co-operative movement’s values are deep-rooted, comprising self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Housing Co-operatives are non-hierarchical property management companies, involving groups of people who provide and collectively manage affordable homes for themselves either as tenants or shared owners. Unlike some other types of community-led housing, the membership of a co-op is limited to its residents – the community in question is made up of the people living together.

The West Midlands has a rich heritage of housing co-ops, including organisations such as20/20 Housing Co-operative. There are also newer co-op housing projects underway, like Stirchley Co-operative Development, a group of local people in housing and worker co-ops building affordable and eco-friendly residential and retail premises at the heart of Stirchley.

The Confederation of Co-operative Housing website is a good place to learn more about this model.

Self-help Housing

Self-help housing projects involve community-based organisations bringing empty properties back into use, often with a strong emphasis on construction skills, training and support. It usually provides a range of opportunities for hands-on involvement by members during the refurbishment process. It can include empty houses, as well as changing the use of other non-residential buildings such as redundant shops and offices. It’s specifically about the refurbishment of existing properties, so is different to self build, which is about building new homes.

The Self Help Housing website is a good place to learn more about this model: Self Help Housing (self-help-housing.org)

Organisations such as Canopy and Latch in Leeds and Giroscope in Hull are examples of this model. Typically volunteers from the local community do the practical work to renovate empty homes to provide decent affordable accommodation for people who are homeless or in housing need, and tenants have the opportunity to participate in the renovation and decoration themselves. In Birmingham, St Basil’s are partnering with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust to provide apprenticeships and homes for 27 young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Tenant Management

Tenant Management Organisations provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining their homes through an agreement with their council or housing association landlord.

Bushbury Hill Estate Management Board in Wolverhampton is an example of this model. They are a housing management organisation run by tenants, for tenants.

The National Federation of Tenant Management Organisations website is a good place to learn more about this model.

Mutual Home Ownership

The MHOS model is an innovative concept, designed as an alternative to conventional home ownership. Instead of individuals owning their own homes, all the properties on a development are owned by a co-operative society. Residents pay a monthly charge to the co-operative society, in return for which they build up equity in the society. This gives residents an interest in the value of the housing assets owned by the co-op. When a resident leaves, they can take this equity pot with them, the value of which may be indexed to an appropriate external measure such as local wages.

LILAC in Leeds (Low Impact Living Affordable Community) is one example of this model. LILAC is a cohousing project with 20 new build eco home, a common house and other shared facilities and green spaces.

There are a few resources about this model on the UK MHOS Network website.


An almshouse is a unit of residential accommodation (usually a house or flat) which belongs to a charity, is provided exclusively to meet the charity’s purposes (for example, the relief of financial need or infirmity) and is occupied or is available for occupation under a licence by a qualified beneficiary.

An almshouse charity is typically a charity which is established for purposes which are to be furthered by the provision of one or more almshouses. It is usually a charity for the relief of financial hardship by the provision of housing and associated services or benefits which must (or is authorised to) provide its primary benefit by the grant of a licence to occupy the accommodation that it owns to its beneficiaries.

The Almshouse Association is a good place to learn more about this model.

In the West Midlands, there are almshouse charities who are keen to grow and create more homes for their community. Organisations such as the Sir Josiah Mason Trust.