Lessons from Liverpool: exploring the potential of non-state collective alternatives to public housing

Online - a link will be sent to you before the event
Thursday 22 April 2021 (12:00-13:30)
Matthew Thompson

This first of this new seminar series Where next for Public Housing? features speaker Dr Matt Thompson from the University of Liverpool, Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place.

This seminar explores Liverpool’s hidden history of collective alternatives to public housing – from the 1970s cooperative movement to the community land trusts (CLTs) of the 2010s – and asks what lessons can be learnt from this history for mainstreaming these movements within and beyond Liverpool as a new, more community-led model of public housing.

In the 1970s, Liverpool’s ‘new build cooperative revolution’ or ‘Co-op Spring’ produced some 50 housing co-ops through close collaboration between working class residents and professional secondary development agencies, supported by generous government grants. This state-funded cooperative system was heralded as a paradigm shift towards Public Sector Housing 2.0 before it was halted by neoliberal reforms and adverse local politics.

In the 2010s, amongst the country’s first urban CLTs were established in Liverpool by residents facing the threat of displacement by state-led redevelopment; including Granby Four Streets, the first ever architectural or housing project to win the Turner Prize, in 2015. This nascent movement has been given a boost with the recent establishment of Breaking Ground, the Liverpool City Region Community-led Housing Hub, reflecting similar efforts at institutionalisation across the UK.

Presenting arguments from his new open access book Reconstructing Public Housing, Matt Thompson identifies these experiments as non-state though nonetheless public housing – or ‘collective housing alternatives’ – distinct from ‘collaborative’ and ‘community-led’ housing in key respects; reflects upon the growing role of artists and arts funding in their development; and considers the implications for understanding the role of the state and ‘the public’ in cooperative and community-led housing.


Matt is a critical urban geographer based in London with interests in cooperative alternatives to capitalism, the social and solidarity economy, municipalism, collaborative housing, and the politics of urban regeneration. He is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place, where he is researching new municipalism, community wealth building, universal basic income (UBI) and their intersections with economic democracy.

Matt’s PhD at the University of Manchester explored Liverpool’s hidden history of collective alternatives to public housing, focusing on the 1970s cooperative movement and the community land trusts (CLT) of the 2010s. He is the author of Reconstructing Public Housing, published open access by Liverpool University Press, and of various academic articles, such as What’s so new about New Municipalism? and Playing with the Rules of the Game: Social Innovation for Urban Transformation; and has written for various magazines, including Minim, Town and Country Planning and Stir to Action. 

Matt has also co-authored a number of policy research reports, including an alternative Liverpool City Region industrial strategy for the TUC; an assessment of the regeneration of the Hattersley Estate in Greater Manchester for Onward Homes; an evaluation of the National CLT Network’s urban CLT fund; and a review of UBI policies for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, Matt was invited onto the Liverpool City Region Land Commission and, in 2021, became a member of the Minim Municipalism Observatory, the international network and database for municipalist movements.

Watch a recording of the full seminar below:

Find out more about the seminar series - Where next for Public Housing?