Mayor backs community plans for self-build homes
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has awarded a south London community group almost £1 million to help it deliver social rented and other genuinely affordable homes for local residents and workers.
The Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) – a Lewisham-based Community Land Trust – has received £988,000 from the Mayor’s Innovation Fund to build 33 homes on Church Grove in Ladywell. The site was gifted to RUSS by Lewisham Council in 2016. Five of the homes will be allocated by Lewisham Council whilst RUSS will retain at least 20 per cent equity in the remaining 28 properties, ensuring they cannot be sold on the open market and will only ever be transferred on to members on the RUSS waiting list.
The homes on Church Grove, ranging from one-bedroom flats to four-bedroom homes and tailored to the occupants’ needs, will be partly self-built by residents, RUSS members, apprentices and volunteers from the wider community in order to reduce construction costs, with training in construction skills provided as part of the grant.
Through this approach, residents will be given a say in how their homes are designed, creating a development that reflects the needs and diverse backgrounds of the people who live there. Sadiq has set a new target to identify a pipeline of community-led housing schemes by 2021, with capacity to deliver at least 1,000 homes.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “To tackle the capital’s housing crisis, we need to think beyond large developers - councils, small builders, and community groups must play a vital role too. Community-led housing puts residents at the heart of the process, giving them a voice and the chance to contribute to designing their community.
“This is exactly the type of project my Innovation Fund was created to support, and I’m delighted we could help RUSS members in delivering much-needed high-quality social and other genuinely affordable homes. I look forward to following the progress of this project and would welcome further bids from parties interested in the future of community-led development in London.”
London’s homebuilding sector is dominated by a small number of large developers that build the majority of the homes across the capital. Sadiq is encouraging other councils to build more through ‘Building Council Homes for Londoners’ – the first-ever City Hall programme dedicated to new council housing with a target of 10,000 homes.
The Mayor is supporting the community-led housing sector by funding a new London Community-led Housing Hub, which provides information and advice, capacity building, and technical support for communities wishing to develop their own homes. He has also announced that London Community Land Trust will build community-led housing on two sites brought forward by Transport for London.
RUSS Co-Chair Anurag Verma said: “The grant from the Mayor’s Innovation Fund been a real game-changer for us. We have moved one step closer to achieving our vision of building an affordable and sustainable community at Church Grove.
“To take the project from planning stage to start on site requires a significant injection of development finance and support. The people we are aiming to house are all on modest incomes, and it would be impossible for them to stump up hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay for the technical consultant’s fees, the numerous surveys, soil tests and everything else that we have to fund prior to starting to build the homes.
“We are hugely grateful for the Mayor’s generous support."
Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan said: "This is an exciting initiative that follows co-operative housing principles. It shows that there are many ways in which we can creatively address our housing needs.
Lewisham has a radical housing tradition and RUSS’s self-build Community Land Trust builds on that history. Most importantly this is a development that will keep homes affordable in perpetuity.”
Gloria Wyse, co-chair of Lewisham Citizens, who are waiting for planning permission on their own CLT site close to Church Grove, said: “It’s great to see this investment and support from the Mayor of London’s team. The housing need in Lewisham is real and comes up every time we speak to local residents.
“We have been journeying alongside RUSS for years as we all fight for more affordable community-led housing in Lewisham, and we look forward to celebrating with them when the homes are completed.
We hope this investment is a sigh of change to come in our housing market, with fewer luxury flats and more affordable Community Land Trust homes built and managed by and for the local community.”
Notes to editors
Photos of Deputy Mayor for Housing, James Murray, visiting the site and meeting RUSS representatives available on request by emailing [email protected]
Calum Green, Co-Director of London Community Land Trust, said: “‘It is great to see community land trust projects go from strength to strength across London. RUSS’ proposals for Church Grove are a powerful example of what is possible when Londoners organise to get affordable homes built.
“The Mayor’s ongoing support is vital to ensuring that more community-led projects help build the affordable homes our city needs. ”
Levent Kerimol, Director, Community Led Housing London said: “RUSS’ Church Grove scheme is one of the most exciting projects in recent years, showing the many benefits that can be achieved by organised local volunteers, bringing creativity and passion to issues of affordability, resident empowerment, skills, self-build, training, and sustainability.
“The Mayor’s support is vital to the many community-led housing projects gathering momentum to create more successful places across London.”
Planning permission was granted by Lewisham Council in June 2018 and construction is expected to start in late spring 2019.
There is significant local support for the scheme with RUSS receiving five applicants for every available home. Allocation was decided based on three factors: affordability (lack of ability to buy a home in the local area), local connections (living or working in the borough) and commitment to the RUSS mission (membership costs just £1).
In June the Mayor announced his backing for the London Community Land Trust to build community-led housing on two sites brought forward by Transport for London: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayors-boosts-small-and-community-led-homebuilders
More information about RUSS can be found at www.theruss.org
RUSS are running workshops to help other community groups interested in establishing similar projects, for more information contact Anne Kennedy via [email protected], or RUSS Trustee Ted Stevens [email protected]