Vacant land in Liverpool

BLOG: Letting the community lead the way on housing

Liverpool has a rich tradition of housing co-operatives. Now a new strategy is about to revive the spirit of that approach, writes Cllr Sarah Doyle, Cabinet Member for Development and Housing.

In the 1980s, when Liverpool seemed to be leading everything – be it the football tables, the music charts, TV schedules and street fashion, the city was also pioneering a grassroots revolution away from the spotlight – the first new build housing co-op.

This piece of housing history began when tenants from old slum housing came together to form The Weller Streets co-op.

For the first time, residents were firmly put in the driving seat and empowered to design their own homes. They were offered the chance to find a site and commission an architect to help them design the type of house they wanted to live in. The ‘Weller Way’ is credited by many as igniting a new build co-operative revolution.

As Cabinet Member for Housing, I’ve always felt passionate about building on this legacy. Fast forward to today, and I’m delighted that a new policy from the council will see Liverpool once again embedding these values and empowering communities.

Our Community Led Housing Asset Disposal Policy – approved at cabinet earlier today – will unlock vacant or derelict land and properties for community groups to convert into new homes.

Whether it’s an old school, the site of a long-forgotten baths or vacant, abandoned houses – these are disused sites that have often blighted communities for years. We will not be offering any of our city’s green spaces, rather brownfield land that community groups can transform into the social housing our city so desperately needs.  Housing shaped by the people, for the people.

Over the past few years, I have supported a number of local people in trying to access a decent, affordable home. It has been an incredibly difficult challenge because we simply don’t have enough social housing, affordable rents and strong rights for those in the private rented sector. In the council, these are three things that we simply have no control over.

But what we do have is land and buildings. We believe that our communities should be able to benefit from our assets and that we should support local residents to be stewards of them, delivering services that make our neighbourhoods better places to live.

I have been inspired by Mayor Joanne’s commitment to community wealth building, along with our Community Asset Transfer Policy. I am so proud that we have built upon this to empower grassroots community groups to deliver truly affordable, decent housing which will generate such a positive social impact. This process will  focus on people every step of the way, from design through to construction and is an example of the Mayor’s triple lock in action.

I have loved working with Mayor Joanne on how our council can support this type of grassroots activism. It was a cornerstone of the her manifesto and both of us feel extremely passionate that everyone, regardless of background, should be able to live in a good home within a thriving community.

We know that the stability a decent home can offer people the opportunity to go on and do great things in their lives. The community land trust movement has ties with the civil rights movement in America, where people joined together to create the homes their communities needed. It may now be several  decades later, but our local people face similar problems – a lack of security and access to a house they can call a home.

We know that community-led housing is only one part of the puzzle in solving this housing emergency. We still need government to support a mass social house building programme. We still need government to enforce the Renters Reform Bill.

However, we believe through designating some of our land and buildings for community land trusts and co-ops, it will support those local groups that want to champion community-led regeneration.

Liverpool Waterfront