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Leeds Community Homes

Leeds Community Homes (LCH) is of interest in so many ways. Firstly, it’s the subject of a share offer representing the culmination of nearly two years work by a group of Locality members in Leeds.

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The pioneering community-led housing project is led by three providers:

  • Canopy based in Harehills/Beeston who have just been awarded a Unicef Habitat award
  • Latch in Chapeltown
  • GIPSIL in Gipton/Hunslet which is building on a strong reputation for supporting people as well as providing housing.

Leeds Community Homes’ other key partners include:

  • Locality member, Lilac, a well-established beacon of the co-housing world
  • Social Business Brokers, home to the award winning Empty Homes Doctor Service
  • LEDA, Hunslet based green architects
  • Jim Reed – a community housing specialist
  • Leeds City Council led by their CEO Tom Riordan (LCC have ring fenced Right to Buy receipts for further affordable housing)
  • Local green developer CITU committed to developing low carbon communities.

Fixing the housing crisis

The housing crisis is daily news, we can all see that the ‘market’ is not delivering especially for the most vulnerable. Right to buy depletes the stock of affordable housing.  The private rental market only delivers to the most able – at the launch of the share offer in Leeds, Paul from Gipsil pointed out that even Teaching Assistants’ salaries were not adequate to pay private rental levels in Leeds.

So LCH has been doing some serious thinking about their city and have the ambition to create 1000 affordable homes there. Building houses is not easy; building them in such a way that residual debt can be covered by rental streams that are affordable by the most vulnerable is harder still but every study shows that secure supported  accommodation is the key ingredient for better lives.

Community shares

LCH understands these difficulties and the cocktail of good partnerships with public and private sectors, access to land, technical skills, housing management and supporting people required to make this work but they also believe that they are not alone. They believe that there are enough others in Leeds with modest amounts of savings that they would like to see put to good use—hence the community share offer to provide adequate amounts of aligned patient capital to get their first scheme up and running.

The admirable Ecology Building Society is standing in the wings to provide cash flow and top up loans but patient capital from engaged investors will allow LCH to move on from one scheme to the next towards the 1000 homes target. Investors money will go into passivhaus standard homes and will offer, after a while, a 2% return and surpluses. New investors will also allow for those who need to withdraw their investments, not immediately, but over time.

Support from Power to Change Community Shares Booster programme commits to invest on equal terms with local investors up to £100,000, another first under this new programme which seeks to encouraged aligned local investment. More than ever we look to local people to invest in our collective futures; such support feels truly creative.

LCH is an intelligent and hopeful initiative into such an important space and I for one will keep watching and learning and supporting as I can.

Hugh Rolo, Locality