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Government publishes report on community-led housing and loneliness

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published its report ‘Those little connections: Community-led housing and loneliness. The report, which is based on a study made by the University of Bristol, Lancaster University and the London School of Economics, delivers on a commitment made in the Government’s 2018 strategy for tacking loneliness, A Connected Society.  Specifically the Government committed to “fund research into innovative community-led housing (CLH) projects to understand how these can help to tackle loneliness and support social connections”.

CLH is an umbrella term for a range of models that includes cohousing, community land trusts (CLTs), cooperatives, self-help and self-build housing. CLH emphasises resident decision-making, collaboration and inclusion.  The report says that research suggests that residents feel intuitively that CLH helps to reduce feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

The study set out to answer four questions:

  1. Does CLH (and cohousing in particular) have an impact on loneliness?
  2. Is this impact achieved through design/community consultation process or subsequent occupancy models and shared space (or both)?
  3. Is there a broader impact for the residents, for example in participation (volunteering), health or service use? and
  4. Is this impact broader than the immediate resident community?

The study considered five detailed case studies:

  1. Lancaster Cohousing, a purpose-built intergenerational cohousing scheme on a riverbank outside Lancaster
  2. New Ground (Older Women’s Cohousing), a cohousing community for older women in Barnet, north London
  3. Tangram Co-op, an intergenerational co-op housed in a number of Victorian houses in Leeds, with some residents who have lived there for more than 40 years
  4. 325 Fishponds Road (Bristol CLT), a recently built scheme of 12 houses around a communal garden; and
  5. The Yard at Ashley Vale, a neighbourhood of self-build homes, also in Bristol.

The study found that people involved in CLH were significantly less likely to feel lonely than similar members of the general public, and that CLH residents’ perceptions of their own communities were significantly more positive than those of other people living in their neighbourhoods.  The study also found that loneliness is reduced by joint activities, the use of shared space and physical design, and that volunteering and neighbourhood connections confer benefits in both directions.

The report makes eight recommendations:

  1. Support resident control over management and decision-making
  2. Promote the design of spaces for social interaction
  3. Help CLH communities that want to provide facilities for neighbourhood use
  4. Support efforts to improve the data nationally on CLH
  5. Promote inclusivity
  6. Encourage and support tenure security
  7. Adapt CLH features for existing housing, and non-CLH new-build schemes and
  8. Reinvigorate targeted funding streams to make CLH options more widely available.