Feedback from Workshops in November

We held two public gatherings in Windsor 22nd November 2017 and in Maidenhead on 28th November 2017, to explore the concept of community-led housing, and what it might look like in the borough. 20 people attended the Windsor event, and 25 in Maidenhead, with a lot of interest from others who were not able to attend.

Both evenings began with a presentation from Anna Hope from Ecomotive, outlining the ideas behind community housing schemes and drawing out some examples of successful projects from across the UK. You can download her presentation slides here. We moved on to discuss our perceptions of local housing issues, and finally, sharing our ideas about how we might use these ideas to create housing that really meets peoples needs in Windsor and Maidenhead.

Issues

The creation of truly affordable housing stood out as the key concern for both groups. Both groups raised the issue that even housing defined as “affordable” may still be unaffordable for a majority of people, even when on average salaries.

In both cases the discussions specifically identified similar groups as being particularly in need, especially young people, key workers, older people as lifestyles and needs change, and homeless people. It was highlighted that the Borough’s own housing assessment identifies very high levels of demand for affordable housing far outstripping existing plans for delivery. Due to the lack of housing, younger people have to leave the Borough for areas in which they can afford housing, and this has affected family dynamics and multi generations.

The strongly negative impact of the lack of affordable housing was particularly highlighted, potentially leading to stress, depression, and low quality of life.

Driven by the inability to cap private rents, or to force developers to meet the aspirational 30% affordability targets set by the Borough, both groups identified spiralling land costs and low availability of land as key issues, as well as poor access to the local housing list, and low awareness of mechanisms such as the Self-Build Register that could help.   

Other issues that came up included quality of life issues, the high numbers of flats, low numbers of gardens, the importance of retaining public open space.

Ideas and Visions

There were a number of very clear themes that emerged from the two meetings. This isn’t a binding description of where we are going, but a sense of the ideas that were shared and important to a large proportion of the people who came to the events:

  • Creating truly affordable homes i.e significantly less than 80% market value
  • Creating schemes with mixed housing types, maybe specifically geared for mixed ages, young people, key workers, or vulnerable people
  • Creating mechanisms (social or financial) to support mobility and long term positive changes
  • Strong community engagement as a way of ensuring we meet local needs, and also to ensure a broad base of community support for local schemes
  • Formation of a borough-wide CLT that could pursue a range of ideas, including smaller local schemes, rural exception sites, or large-scale stewardship of community land on major development sites, and work to support and enable local groups as they might emerge

Specifically, from the Maidenhead event, there were three key ‘next steps’ that emerged from the discussion.

1.     Firstly, there was a recognition that a group who want to do this need to form. We propose to create a steering group to guide these discussions towards action. There is on-going support and advice available from Ecomotive to help this happen, including convening the group, helping develop ideas and business plans, and helping them approach RBWM Council to discuss potential sites and seed funding from the Community Housing Fund.

2.     Secondly, there was a strong sense of a need for a follow up public meeting to explore these ideas and issues in more depth. We suggest that the formative steering group could run this (with support from Ecomotive).

3.     Finally, we were reminded that anyone wishing to be involved in a community-led housing scheme can register their interest on the RBWM Council’s Self-Build Register, which creates a legal obligation to ensure self-build plots are available in the borough. (Self-build includes community-led schemes). 

A small number of people have put their names forward from the events to form an initial steering group, and help organize this next meeting, at which we will aim to talk more in depth about the ideas and vision for a project moving forwards. 

If you would like to support the project as a part of the steering group or offering your time and skills in any other way, please let us know by emailing tom@ecomotive.org  

 

Thomas Beale