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We Can Make

We Can Make supports citizens and communities to create affordable homes when and where they need them, by unlocking micro-sites for development.

We Can Make was born as a ‘bottom-up’ response to community demands and concerns about housing need in Knowle West:

– People are priced out of a market where housing is the most expensive it has ever been – full-time workers can expect to pay an estimated 7.8 times their annual workplace-based earnings in purchasing a home.*

– Many people we’ve spoken to aren’t eligible for the ‘last resort’ supply of council housing. When they are eligible, the housing they’re offered is often in a location far away from their care and support networks.

– Many people lack the professional skills and financial resources required to “go it alone” through the development and planning system. For example, planning applications in Knowle West are twice as likely to be rejected than applications made in neighbourhoods in Bristol that rank lower in national deprivation indices.**

We Can Make uses an asset-based approach to re-imagine “how to do housing” differently in Knowle West. It starts with the know-how and resources the community already has, and uses a process of co-design to work with people to develop the tools to do housing on their terms.

We call this approach “urban acupuncture” – where people with particular needs opt in to using a small piece of land to meet their housing needs.

Typical needs that are failing to be met by conventional housing solutions include:

1. Downshifters: individuals or couples whose house is too big for them and they are looking for a smaller home but want to stay in the neighbourhood.

2. New shoots: families that need more space because kids are growing up and want independent or are having children of their own.

3. Extra care: families who need more space so they can look after elderly or disabled family members.

4. Better fit: families where someone is experiencing changing mobility needs and the home needs to be adapted.

5. Making ends meet: individuals and families that want to swap space for extra income or lower bills.

We Can Make prototype home

The Story So Far

So far, we have:

– Worked with artists to creatively map the housing needs and resources of Knowle West. Artist Charlotte Biszewski made a mobile wall-paper making machine taking it door-to-door to help bring everyday stories of housing need to the surface.

– Brought local people, academics, designers and policy-makers together to create a “test space” to explore and develop new approaches to developing citizen-led housing. Read the report here.

– Worked with the local community to co-design a set of tools to unlock micro-sites for affordable housing, including a Community Design Code where the community helps to set the rules for what any homes on micro-sites look like, what materials are used and how many there are.

– Built a prototype home on a micro-site in Knowle West to show the kind of designs that are possible. The “TAM” is one of these designs: it was designed by White Design and built by ModCell, employing local tradespeople in the construction. The house is made from timber and compressed straw, making it environmentally friendly. Knowle West residents can stay in the house to try it out, and it’s also available to rent on AirBnB, with the income shared with Filwood Community Centre. So far over 600 people have stayed in the TAM.

– Created a Chat Show podcast series with local residents and artist Lily Green of No Bindings to share how Knowle Westers are sorting out their housing.

Design Code Workshops

The We Can Make Chat Show

The We Can Make Chat Show

What’s next?

The next phase of We Can Make is focused on working with local families and suitable sites in Knowle West to test the prototype approach and tools.  The first batch of homes will come to planning in early 2020, and up to 16 homes will be built over the next eighteen months.

Our aim is then to scale up the project in Knowle West. Over 80 local families have registered their interest in a We Can Make home and at this stage we anticipate up to 300 affordable homes could be built in Knowle West! We propose that the homes form part of a community land trust so that they can remain affordable indefinitely.

We hope that the We Can Make tools and approach can also be replicated in other neighbourhoods similar to Knowle West.

Get involved

We Can Make has funding to support the development of the first set of up to 16 We Can Make homes in Knowle West. Get in touch if:

– You live in Knowle West, think you’ve got space, and you or your family are interested in getting a We Can Make home

– You are a local tradesperson and interested in helping to build the We Can Make homes

– You want to find out more.

Have a look around the We Can Make prototype home. It’s next to Filwood Community Centre and is open every Thursday afternoon – get in touch to book a visit.

Come along to one of our laid-back monthly meet-ups at the We Can Make prototype home on the first Thursday of the month. Check the Events calendar for full details and forthcoming dates.


We Can Make is a community-led housing project by Knowle West Media Centre in collaboration with architects White Design and in partnership with Bristol City Council.

We Can Make is supported by Nationwide Foundation and Homes England.

Featured image by Mikael Techane


*Housing affordability in England and Wale 2018, Office for National Statistics.
**All planning applications made in Knowle West and Clifton between 2010 and 2014 were compared. Data accessed via Bristol City Council Open Data Portal. Accessed 16/03/2017

We Can Make housing initiative one of 50 ‘New Radicals’

Every two years Nesta and The Observer New Review showcase 50 individuals and organisations that are changing the UK for the better - and in 2018 a Knowle West initiative is one of them! Our We Can Make housing programme has been selected as one of 50 'New Radicals' - a list of individuals, organisations and initiatives from...

Power to Change and the Nationwide Foundation support We Can Make

Working people can expect to pay around 7.6 times their annual earnings on purchasing a home in England and Wales: we urgently need new ways to meet housing need. Our We Can Make initiative proposes that one answer to the housing crisis could lie in people’s own hands and ‘micro-plots’ of spare land scattered across back-gardens and between buildings. We're...

We Can Make: Construction begins on a strawbale house

Over the spring of 2017 a large wooden structure has slowly taken shape behind Filwood Community Centre. The moveable house is fully plumbed and wired, has walls made of straw bales, triple-glazed windows and a large wooden deck. Known as the TAM (Transportable Accommodation Module), the eco-friendly home is big enough to house a couple – and it will open its...

Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

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