Sustaining the community

As an Expert Member of UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group (REM), one of our main focuses is in helping to provide advice on creating affordable, environmental and sustainable homes through local communities, ideally with as much self-help and mutual co-operation as possible to encourage a sense of ownership and commitment.

New housing construction

One of the biggest construction costs can be the land.

This should incorporate the use of local labour, ideally involving the recipient of the home, local materials that are low in carbon in manufacture and maintenance, and wherever possible create and take advantage of local renewable energy.

This all requires finance and calls for innovative ways of attracting this for the initial build phase and the ongoing repayment with a mortgage, rental or combinations of both.

The largest cost involved  is usually the cost of obtaining the land. In certain projects, this is being achieved by Government, local or central, providing the land from stock available from brown-field sites, redundant publicly owned sites or other similar areas owned by religious organizations, etc. These can be either given to the community for free, at a pepper-corn rent or placed under the ownership and supervision of Community Land Trusts or similar.

In addition to new builds, there is also the ability and need to carry out renovation projects for run-down, but structurally sound, premises. These are often in neighbourhoods where there has been a strong community spirit that is being broken up due to lack of funding for renovation. It is far more cost-effective, and desirable, to maintain these communities.

In all cases, the ability to create the necessary environment and various funding sources will help maintain or create sustainable communities resulting reductions in enforced mobility and increased crime rates.

An excellent example of this is in Liverpool, were Liverpool Habitat for Humanity (LHFH) is building 32 homes in Granby-Toxteth, one of the most diverse communities in the country with over 54 nationalities and at least seven major religions represented. The area has been identified as a ‘deprived community’ by government and is a key regeneration and renewal area.

LHFH builds houses through volunteer labour and donations of land, material and money. Each home partner family is required to contribute a minimum of 500 hours of their own labour – called “sweat equity” – into the building process.

This fosters community development, increases the pride of ownership and reduces the cost of labour; therefore, making the homes more affordable to families on low income. In exchange, LHFH offers £10,000 towards the deposit required to obtain a mortgage. The houses are sold to the families on a shared equity basis with a minimum home owner contribution of £50,000 to a maximum of a 70% share in the first instance. After one year, home owners can gradually increase their ownership to 100%.

By Brian Emmott
Founder & Director of International Real Estate Advisory Network
Expert Member of UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group (REM)


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