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Community-led housing held back by lack of land, says TOWN co-founder

Aj100 067
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The UK’s community-led housing movement is being held back by a lack of land, according to the co-founder of emerging developer TOWN 

Speaking to a packed AJ100 breakfast event at Claridge’s in central London, Jonny Anstead described the experience of delivering the recently-completed Marmalade Lane co-housing scheme in Cambridge.

While there were many benefits to working in co-housing, rolling the model out across the UK would require a ‘culture shift’ and have to overcome major ‘structural problems’ in the housebuilding market, he said.  

According to Anstead, community-led housing was often treated as a ’last resort’, pointing out that co-housing was only considered an option for Marmalade Lane after a planned private development fell through following the financial crash of 2008.

He said: ’It’s a real pity that it’s only when things are desperate that a council and developer would turn to a community-led housing group. It needs to be a go-to option in all stages of the cycle.’

Asked by the AJ why the co-housing model had not been as successful in the UK as in mainland Europe, Anstead said: ‘Lots of reasons – all of them land.’

Government funding for community-led housing means nothing unless land is available, he said. ’If you want to cultivate a culture of people solving their own housing needs through co-housing models, find some way of making more land available.’

Marmalade lane cohou 2947 david butler pressimage 2

Marmalade lane cohou 2947 david butler pressimage 2

Anstead spoke about the process of working with Swedish housebuilder Trivselhus, Mole Architects and the K1 Cambridge Cohousing group on Marmalade Lane, a 42-home development with community facilities and shared gardens.

The development was designed to be customisable, with four different types of homes ranging in price and style, even down to the colours of the brick.

TOWN is also working with regeneration specialist U+I on a major 5,000-home scheme at Cambridge Northern Fringe East. 

New Ways is a series of reports looking at innovative practises, new voices and different ways of working within architecture

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Readers' comments (1)

  • One aspect of the current housing problems is the really bad behaviour by some of the national developers, in the spotlight in the last few years,
    Not so much the remarkable profits achieved per se, but the detail in getting them.
    This ranges from the unscrupulous (to be very polite) use of the freehold 'system' to extort the last drop of blood from house purchasers to the ability to somehow deliver new homes with all the relevant completion documentation but which aren't just scrappily built, they're basically dangerous. And then there's the case of twisting the arms of a local authority to relax the approved design standards in the face of urgent need for affordable housing.
    Surely some drastic reform of the large scale housing development industry is needed, and it wouldn't really be too draconian to enforce the forfeiture of development land from companies with a record of totally unacceptable behaviour.
    This would concentrate minds on producing a decent product at a fair price, rather than whatever they thought they could get away with..

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