Problem Addressed

The current housing crisis in the UK requires innovative solutions. According to Shelter England, the council house waiting list is longer than ever before with over 1.2 million households registered. Many of these households remain on the list for over five years due to a lack of supply. Consequently, housing prices are unaffordable with the Housing Affordability in England and Wales: 2022 report stating that full-time employees in England must spend 8.3x their annual earnings to buy a home. Of the homes that are being built, only 2% delivered in England and Wales in the second quarter of 2021 were built to the highest energy efficiency standards.

Solution Overview

WeCanMake have developed a framework for addressing these problems which can build social infrastructure and community wealth all the while providing homes where they are needed. The framework was developed on a neighbourhood test-space in Knowle West, Bristol, a 100-year-old council-built estate. WeCanMake is a community land trust (CLT) which has developed a community-led and innovative approach to build affordable homes in micro-sites. Landowners can opt-in to provide micro-sites to be used for new homes. These sites could be between existing buildings or in large back gardens. WeCanMake’s strategy is focused on what they call ‘gentle densification’ which involves utilising the capacity of the existing urban fabric instead of building in greenfield areas or with high-rise housing complexes.

Ownership of the micro-sites is transferred from the Council to the CLT to be held by the Trust in perpetuity giving low density neighbourhoods the power to densify on their own terms. Through the CLT, the community also establishes a Community Design Code to ensure that any new homes add to the neighbourhood’s character and are high-quality. Their Our Living Rent policy also ensures that rent for the new homes is no higher than one-third the average neighbourhood household income. WeCanMake also utilises Modern Methods of Construction to realise a number of benefits. This approach allows for the homes to be locally produced in a community microfactory, ensuring that the community can retain more value by locally developing skills, creating jobs, and providing tech infrastructure.

WeCanMake’s framework was also developed to function without requiring any new policy or regulation. It can function as a prototype for similar communities across the UK. With many similar neighbourhoods in other cities, the approach WeCanMake has developed can be scaled, replicated, and adapted elsewhere. To facilitate this, they have published their Playbook to explain their methods and share insights into how it could be applied in other communities. Over 1.1 million council-built interwar homes like those found in Knowle West can be found across England. With only a 3% increase in densification, 33,000 affordable homes could be built where they are needed most.

Case Study

In Knowle West, WeCanMake has already built two community-led, locally made, Living Rent homes one of which is a 2-bedroom single storey home built for a young family. The home was constructed using a BlokBuild OSB timber cassette system and is 100% electric with solar panels and an air source heat pump. Toni, one of the residents, was involved early on in every stage of the planning and design of her home. She was able to assist in the fabrication at WeCanMake’s community micro-factory and worked on site to complete the home.

Facts and Figures

2 homes

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