There is a long history in England of communities working together to meet housing need, albeit one that has become less personal over the years. In the wonderfully titled ‘Anarchy 83: Tenants take over’ (priced at the era-revealing amount of ‘Two shillings or thirty cents’), Colin Ward describes the origins of building societies:
‘When building societies first came into existence as organs of working-class mutual aid at the end of the 18th century, they were remarkably like the self-build housing societies of today, and very unlike the money-lending-plus-savings-bank organisations which are the modern modern societies [article was written in 1968]. They consisted of groups of people who saved to buy land to house themselves, and, when the first house was completed, borrowed money on its security to build another, until all the members of the society were housed, at which point the society disbanded.’1
So, if individuals and communities are once again to play a bigger role in meeting local housing need, what are the approaches and institutions that we need to champion? What skills do communities need to develop, or find, to fulfil their enhanced role? How well equipped are ‘the professionals’ to work with communities to help them meet their housing aspirations? What are the implications for the way we develop the skills of future built environment professionals?
After quite a bit of thought, these are the questions that interest me. They are the ones I am going to ponder and, perhaps, occasionally blog on. I am not going to promise anything. I will blog if I think I have something to say, which is going to be the challenge! Whether or not I write anything, I suspect I will enjoy the research. They feel like important questions.
Colin Ward, Tenants take over: a new strategy for council tenants, in Anarchy No. 83: Tenants Take Over, January 1968 ↩