NEWS Community-led housing: A collaborative PhD studentship opportunity

NEWS Community-led housing: A collaborative PhD studentship opportunity

The University of Sheffield is currently advertising a collaborative PhD studentship award looking at the scaling-up of community land trusts. The deadline for applications is Monday 26th March. The PhD is fully-funded and will be conducted in partnership with Wessex Community Assets. Dr Tom Moore explains why this is an exciting opportunity.

The role and profile of community land trusts is growing, both in the UK and internationally. Taking inspiration from forms of co-operative and self-help housing, there is renewed interest in initiatives such as community land trusts. In part, this is related to the myriad problems in the housing system today, including housing affordability relative to incomes, restricted access to homeownership, and social housing supply. These challenges have led to many communities taking action to resolve their own housing issues through community land trusts and other forms of community-led housing. A further driver comes from the top-down, as the state seeks to empower citizens and communities to resolve local problems, supported through the Localism Act and its attempt to devolve power and responsibility of planning processes to the local level.

The community land trust sector has grown significantly. From a point of relative obscurity around a decade ago, there is now a dedicated national infrastructure aimed at facilitating the growth of community land trusts (CLTs) and supporting their development as a housing option. Initially a rural phenomenon, there are now notable CLTs providing community-led and managed affordable housing in urban communities, ranging from the affordability crisis in London to the need for neighbourhood renovation in Liverpool. The National CLT Network estimates that there are now over 225 CLTs providing housing across the country. CLT housing usually has covenants in place to protect its affordability, restricting resale prices by linking house prices to local incomes or limiting individual profit. In this way, it aims to preserve housing as a community resource.

The Government is seeking to increase the role of community-led housing initiatives, with a recently announced Community Housing Fund promising £60m per year until 2020, paralleling the development of policies and funding streams to support the growth and ‘scaling-up’ of CLTs. While the sector is therefore expanding, there has been limited academic attention given to the growth of CLTs. This is significant as the development of this new form of civil society-led housing is dependent on a number of factors, including the acquisition and development of funding, knowledge, skills, partnerships, and relationships that can support the CLT sector to ‘scale-up’ both in terms of the size of existing organisations and number of new CLTs forming. Evidence from practice suggests that the process of ‘scaling-up’ may differ within and between organisations and regions, but there has been limited academic study as to exactly how these differ and what the different outcomes may be in relation to the mitigation and resolution of housing challenges. Working with Wessex Community Assets, a body that supports and facilitates the growth of CLTs in urban and rural areas, this study will use qualitative research methods to track and understand the growth of CLTs.

This project offers an exciting opportunity for someone to immerse themselves in the growth of community land trusts, using the three years to understand not only the potential of community-led housing but to examine   broader shifts in the role, responsibilities and expectations of civil society within a context of austerity and governance reconfiguration. It also offers the successful candidate to join a thriving and exciting community of housing researchers – many members of the Department of Urban Studies & Planning, including the supervisory team of myself and Professor John Flint, are members of the recently-launched Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence. The project will appeal to anyone from academia or practice with interests in housing and/or community development, and with a background in urban planning, human geography, sociology, or cognate disciplines.


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