Scaling up or going viral:
Comparing self-help housing and community land trust facilitation

Working Paper 94 - March 2013

Community-led housing organisations can provide solutions to entrenched social problems such as homelesssness, lack of access to affordable homes and neighbourhood decline. New research explores the recent growth of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) and self-help housing to see which forms of support have been effective in helping them flourish.

CLTs have developed a network of national and regional umbrella bodies that have been crucial to their development. These professional umbrella bodies can reduce burdens on local projects by providing technical expertise, training and support for housing development, access to resources and organisational management. But they also risk distancing decision making away from local communities.

Self-help housing has focused on another form of expansion, known as ‘going viral’. This is characterised by a loose network of support that aims to reproduce local projects in different places. While this can maintain the advantages of small-scale community initiatives, it may also overburden local projects.

While community housing relies heavily on local action and self-help, it also needs external support and resources to construct the environment in which it can thrive. The research highlights the importance of intermediary support, but notes that this should not come at the expense of local control. The key challenge is to harness external resources, while maintaining the local scale and accountability crucial to the community housing sector. 


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