Building Futures: social entrepreneurs leading on community-led housing projects

Building Futures: social entrepreneurs leading on community-led housing projects

Last week social entrepreneurs, housing sector experts and funders explored systems change and community led solutions to the housing crisis.

On Thursday 17 October in London’s Good Hotel, we hosted ‘Social Entrepreneurs are #BuildingFutures’. The event to explore how social entrepreneurs can respond to the housing crisis and was a call to action for public, private and third sector organisations to join us to collaborate for change.

Our Building Futures project has worked with a specialist group of social entrepreneurs each working to build resilient communities through housing. The social entrepreneurs, with our support, and through experiential and peer to peer learning have been growing social ventures committed to improving housing in communities across the UK.

We recognised that in addition to individual solutions, our social entrepreneurs can apply their creative and entrepreneurial spirit to challenging systemic issues in the housing system but for change to be embedded and systemic, we need to work together.

A panel of expert speakers – Tom Murtha, Alastair Parvin, Andy Reeve, James Newton and Louise Cannon – gave their insight into collaborative solutions to the housing crisis and the role of social entrepreneurs.

Tom Murtha, a veteran campaigner in the housing sector and former Chief Executive of Midland Heart (one of the largest housing and care organisations in the UK), chaired a panel of social entrepreneur working in housing who shared their projects and ideas with the audience.

Tom gave a ringing endorsement for social entrepreneurs in the housing sector, “Social enterprise, innovation and community involvement has a major role to play in the development, ownership and management of future homes but you can only build genuinely affordable homes at scale with substantial public investment.”

James Newton, of YorSpace in York, said “as a housing designer I’m perennially frustrated by the lack of progress we’re making in de-carboninsing the construction industry. We need to find a new approach to housing.”

James admits he’s been fortunate with his own housing situation, he rents in York but says, “I’ve rediscovered that sense of community…we come together, we have shared meals, we look out for each other – this should be at the heart of the type of housing that we build.”

York faces a housing affordability crisis with house prices roughly ten times the average salary. YorSpace aims to put community-led solutions into housing. They want to use a mutual home ownership model to ensure home ownership on any development will remain affordable for current and future residents.

Alastair Parvin, co-founder of WikiHouse Foundation, criticised conventional homebuilding strategy as “the open secret is….what [developers] are building are not designed as homes, they’re designed as financial assets to rent or to sell.”

He went on to explore how communities and individuals can learn to build homes through the sharing economy and digital solutions. He hopes Wikihouse, an open source project reimagining how homes are built, has some of the answers.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the response and positive feedback from the event and organisations who would like to join us on this journey. We’re looking to work openly to explore the housing system and how we might collaborate to enable people to access the safety, security and mobility that housing should offer.

If you’d like to watch the presentations and panel discussion in full, take a look at our Facebook livestream.

If you’d like to express an interest in joining us, or find out more e-mail Louise Cannon


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