Self help housing

Instrumental impact on policy


Self-help housing uses empty buildings to provide homes and work opportunities for local people. Our research has highlighted the potential of these projects to address multiple needs, including housing shortage, unemployment and community development.  Working with stakeholders in the sector, our research is having an impact on housing policy and helping to remove barriers to these community housing projects. See research for more detail

"The Coalition agreed in October 2011 to ring fence up to £30m of their Empty Homes Programme for the purpose of supporting community led self-help housing initiatives. I really don't believe this would have happened had TSRC not undertaken a field work based research programme - looking at a number of different projects and examining how they worked, the problems they were experiencing and what needed to be done to help them achieve more. This is a great example of how research can have a very clear impact on policy"

Jon Fitzmaurice
Director, Self-Help

TSRC research was a trigger for BSHF to organise an event at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, to discuss self-help housing and produce two publications with recommendations. We believe this timely event and reports contributed to the move by DCLG to subsequently announce the £30m Community Grants Programme as part of their efforts to tackle empty homes identified in their Housing Strategy Paper for England, ‘Laying the Foundations’ in November 2011.”

Jim Vine
Head of Programme, Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF)

Collaborative working

  • Joint consultation with BSHF

This event at Windsor Castle brought key housing and government representitives together to discuss self-help housing and the findings of TSRC research (Dec 2010). A report was developed from the consultation and research findings, making recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners. Recomendations to address barriers include increasing access to funding and support from local partners.

See event and report

  •     Housing and Community Empowerment: joint event with HACT

This partership event brought housing providers together to explore how they can support community development, including through self-help housing projects (June 2011)

  •     Joint working: Self-help

TSRC have also worked closely with self-help to develop, share and promote research findings.


  • TSRC researchers took part in a roundtable with Community Development Foundation and DCLG in July 2010. They presented self-help housing research to 20 senior civil servants.
  • Further presentations on self-help housing were made at a Housing Studies Association conference (April 2011) and ENHR Housing Conference, Toulouse (July 2011)  


Impact on policy

Research has arguably been one of several factors that helped raise the profile and understanding of self-help housing within policy, leading to some important policy changes:

  • In Autumn 2010 the £100 million Empty Homes Programme was launched to bring empty properties into use.
  • In January 2011, Andrew Stunell MP press released a policy initiative to bring empty homes back into use.
  • In November 2011 a ‘Laying the Foundations: A housing strategy for England’ announces Community Grants Programme of £30m targeted at non-registered providers, along with an extra £50m for empty homes to engage Local Authorities. It also states the desire to see RSL’s partnering with community led, self-help groups. (Nov 2011)
  • Grant Shapps Housing Minster comments  ‘the superb work that these housing schemes are already doing shows the scale of what can be acheieved when community self-help is combined with cash incentives from the Government...more projects like these will get people into housing, provide valuable employment skills, create better places to live and at the same time give councils extra cash to tackle homelessness and spend on the local community’. (DCLG, Feb 2011).

Impact on practice

  • TSRC has helped monitor take up of the Government’s Empty Homes Programme. In Summer 2011, 70 expressions of interest were submitted by self-help housing groups, demonstrating the potential for ‘non-registered providers’ to take-up the programme
  • Tudor Trust fund a capacity building project by HACT and Self-help to enable self-help groups to develop their applications for the community grants program. TSRC research helped inform the bid.  (Jan 2012)
  • Natural England will be using the case study methodology developed by TSRC in their own work

Long term impact

We hope that our research will help self-help housing to become a more recognised and sustainable solution in the long-term. Our research continues to increse awareness of self-help housing and it's social value, helping to:

  • make it a more accepted part of initiatives to bring empty properties into use
  • increase understanding of the concept of 'meanwhile use'
  • enable a stronger network of self-help housing groups to develop to take up these opportunities. 

Ongoing research by TSRC includes:

  • Monitoring the extent to which the Community Grants programme leads to increased participation of self-help groups in the Empty Homes Programme
  • Examining how lessons from community land trusts can be applied to the development of the self-help housing sector
  • Further exploration of the social value of self-help housing and how this can be demonstrated to service commissioners.



Through joint events with BSHF and HACT, presentations at external seminars and conferences, self-help housing research has reached key stakeholders from the housing sector, central and local government, community and voluntary organisations and academia.

Media coverage:

Self-help housing research has been publicised in the Guardian, as well as in voluntary sector, local government, and housing media.


Around 600 individual people have viewed the self-help housing web pages between December 2010 and December 2011.