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 delighted to announce that the project has been awarded just over £200,000 from the Nationwide Foundation and Power to Change, the independent trust supporting community businesses in England, to develop the idea further.
The money will be used to work with a pilot neighbourhood in Bristol – Knowle West – to co-design and create practical tools that people can use to deliver their own affordable homes at “point of need”: making it easier, faster and cheaper to develop on micro-plots.
We Can Make has found that in Knowle West there are over 2,000 potential micro-sites where a 1-2 bedroom home could fit. Although not all of these sites will be suitable, We Can Make estimates that 10-15% could be developed. This would create a significant supply of land for affordable housing where and when it’s needed.
The project has a specific focus on people whose needs are not currently being met by the conventional housing system. These include:
– New Shoots’: families with an urgent need for more space due to children growing and needing independence but unable to get on the property ladder themselves.
– ‘Downshifters’: individuals or couples whose homes are too big for them due to children moving out, but they desperately want to stay in their neighbourhood close to friends and family.
– ‘Better fits’: families where one or more member has changing mobility needs that require different living arrangements.
– ‘Making Ends Meet’: those in financial need and who are willing to swap space for extra income, such as people working out how to support themselves through retirement.
With the support of the Nationwide Foundation and Power to Change, We Can Make will develop a set of shared tools to help individuals and communities deliver their own affordable homes. These will include: a shared community design code to set rules about the kind of development that’s welcome; accessible finance models so more people can opt-in; and a design menu so people can choose a home that meets their needs and fits the character of the neighbourhood.
‘Not In My Back Yard’ (NIMBY) is an all too common reaction to speculative commercial developments; We Can Make aims to empower people to meet their own housing needs as YIMBYs: saying “Yes, In My Back Yard!”
Jonathan Lewis, Programme Manager at the Nationwide Foundation, says: “We’re impressed with the innovative, imaginative and forward-thinking approach of We Can Make. Therefore, we’re excited that our funding will help the people of Knowle West to nurture this idea as it moves forward to deliver new, affordable homes and protect existing ones. This project is carefully considering the varying needs of the local residents, putting the community at the heart of decision-making. The development of projects like We Can Make – which could lead to more widespread implementation in time – is key to addressing the housing crisis and changing the system, which doesn’t currently provide the necessary help to people in housing need.”
Michael Lloyd Jones, Programme Officer at Power to Change, comments: “We’re delighted to support the We Can Make project – it’s just what we look for through our Sandbox Ideas Programme; an innovative initiative that has the potential to spark and grow the community business sector beyond its own doors. Community business models are well placed to respond to the challenges facing the housing sector and we are excited to see what valuable learnings We Can Make will yield for community-led housing not just in Bristol but beyond.”
We Can Make is led by Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) and architects practice White Design. It brings together residents, architects, policy-makers and artists to create a new system for delivering affordable housing, working with the assets and resources of communities. The project builds on over a year’s worth of research and innovation in Knowle West: an estate of around 5,500 homes and community of approximately 12,000 residents. A report summarising this research can be found here.
We Can Make built a prototype house on a micro-plot next to Filwood Community Centre in the in summer 2017. The house is fully plumbed and wired, with walls made of straw bale panels, triple-glazed windows and a large wooden deck. Local residents were employed in its construction. So far over 100 local people and visitors from as far away as San Francisco, Australia and Berlin have stayed overnight to try out living in it.
KWMC hosts a weekly drop-in at the prototype We Can Make home for residents interested in finding out more: Thursdays, 2-6pm, at the We Can Make Home on the corner of Barnstaple Road and Marwood Road, Knowle West.
We’d love to meet you and see if We Can Make could work for you!
For more information contact Melissa Mean at Knowle West Media Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 903 0444.