Community engagement is key to developing a community-led housing project. It’s about asking the community and local stakeholders what they need and want at the start of the process, but also about ensuring they understand and support any progress you make based on their input. This can help you access the skills, support and expertise available in your community, and is also a crucial consideration for most funders.
How to engage
There may already be an organisation working in your area who can lead on community engagement. This could be a housing association or a community body such as the Community Council or Development Trust. Alternatively, there may be case for setting up a new community organisation to develop a community-led housing project. Development Trusts Association (Scotland) can advise on how to establish a development trust to take forward a community led housing project.
Whichever organisation develops the project, good communication with local people, the local authority and other community bodies is essential.
The key is to keep it simple and keep everyone informed; be available to answer questions and comments as the project progresses; and think of creative ways to get people involved.
Who to engage with
- Local Residents – It is essential that all local residents (even those who may not appear to be interested!) have the opportunity to be involved. Communication should reach everyone, including “hard to reach” groups such as young people, who may not even have thought about their future housing needs and whether they will want to stay in the community.
- Local Councillors – It is important to consult with and involve Local Councillors at an early stage. They will be the natural link and champion with the services you will need to engage with, including housing, planning and transport.
- Landowners – Many local landowners are keen to provide land for the community to build housing and have been a key stakeholder in successful projects.
- People who would like to return – These people can be difficult to find but might be reached by word of mouth and by using posters as well as social media and using local press.
- Schools and Businesses – Essential services will only remain as long as they are able to maintain ratios of families with children or working age people. In addition key workers (say teachers and nurses) are essential to keep local service provision open.