Capacity building for community groups

This section is about the role that a local authority or housing association can play in helping to build the capacity of community-led housing groups.

Why community capacity building?

  • Community-led housing cannot be established without the effective input of a community. A project cannot be regarded as CLH unless the community is integrally involved in its development and/or management

There are several positive reasons why community capacity building is needed for a successful CLH scheme:

  • It multiplies the social impact and tangible outcomes from the project
  • It is usually essential for the longer-term sustainability of the scheme, by increasing the knowledge and skills of those involved
  • It can provide a rich source of positive publicity – eg personal life stories / journeys - from the scheme
  • In doing so, it provides material to support further promotion of CLH
  • The process of capacity building can bring in other partners and third-party resources to contribute to the scheme

What capacity is needed?

  • Depending upon the setting and the approach taken to CLH development, the community group may be one or more of the following: 
    • a sponsoring local community organisation
    • a scheme steering group
    • a group of prospective tenants or residents
  • The type of support needed by each group will vary depending on its existing capacity, its role and its membership. Some will include people with professional backgrounds, others may be potential residents with little understanding and confidence about being involved in developing or managing a CLH project
  • One of the important added value contributions of CLH is the capacity building opportunities it offers for both communities and individuals. There is evidence of this in many of the case studies included in this toolkit
  • Capacity building is about developing appropriate skills. Quite often it will be about professional people ‘unlearning’ things they bring to the table from their previous experience. At other times it may contribute to important local agendas like the building of employability skills and the creation of local jobs

Funding for capacity building support

  • Some of the agencies and programmes outlined below include access to resources to fund capacity building. For more detail on revenue funding sources see Toolbox 5  

Sources of capacity building support

  • A local authority or housing association may wish to signpost groups to other sources of support and/ or provide some support itself. There are a wide range of independent resources now available to support community groups involved in CLH. These are outlined below.

Specialist national CLH agencies are unlikely, in most cases, to have the capacity to provide on-the-ground support to individual groups; they are more likely to provide general information and/or signpost to more specific local sources. One national agency which is especially relevant in this context is: 

  • Community Led Homes; This is the new umbrella organisation for the community led housing sector, which is dedicated to developing infrastructure support for the community led housing sector. It oversees a programme of establishing regional enabler hubs which provide support, along with accredited community led housing advisors, to local groups. Its website is a portal into a very wide range of information and resources around CLH

National Programmes - There are also some  national capacity building programmes which may offer opportunities for partnership and link-up. For example:

  • Community Housing Fund Start-Up & Support Grants: This is a small grants programme aimed at new CLH projects. Grants of up to £10k are available – up to £4k for seed corn funding and up to £6k for support from a CHL advisor or enabler hub

The Community Housing Advisors Training Programme, which is being run by the Confederation of Co-operative Housing. The aim is to generate a cohort of accredited advisors available to assist new projects around the country. Details of CLH  advisors can be found via the local enabler hub (see below) or here

  • Community Organisers UK- runs programmes to train local residents in community development skills. They may be looking for project ideas to support
  • The national Big Local Programme is a Big Lottery funded, resident-led, local regeneration programme. 150 communities in England and Wales have £1m each to spend over 10 years. The projects are now about half way through their 10 year lives; many have local housing issues on their agendas and resources available

Specialist Regional Enabler Hubs –A programme of local support hubs is being funded through the Community Housing Fund. These help to develop and provide support to new groups. The aim of this growing network is to achieve national coverage. 

Five of these enabler hubs are being funded by Power To Change, a lottery funded grant maker that supports the development of community businesses, as part of its £4.2m Homes in Community Hands Programme. These are in Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham, Teesside and Liverpool. 

Generalist local agencies – Community and voluntary sector infrastructure organisations – eg Councils for Voluntary Services) may also be a source of help and contacts. They may also have capacity building programmes already in place which groups might make use of. They often also hold free-to-access general information on their websites

Support in rural areas – In addition to the agencies outline above, there may also be capacity building support for CLH schemes through well-established rural networks and agencies, including:

  • Rural Housing Enablers (RHE) - are specialist support officers employed by some local authorities, or shared by partnerships of local authorities, or based in Rural Community Councils. Some RHEs have specific expertise in CLH. The extent to which such expertise exists will usually depend on the priority given to CLH by the local authorities involved.  To contact RHEs, search by local area and subject
  • Rural Community Councils, England – The term can be confusing because some parish councils also call themselves community councils. But in all rural counties of England there are also charitable network support bodies which call themselves rural community councils (RCCs). The first were set up in the 1920s; they support rural communities on a wide range of issues. RCCs are funded by grants and by project commissions. Some are equipped to support CLH projects. To contact RCCs, search by local area and subject
  • ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is a national organisation which works on policy influence as well as supporting service provision – and across a wide range of rural issues from housing, health and transport to broadband, services and fuel poverty. 38 Rural Community Councils in England operate as a network under the umbrella of ACRE
  • The Rural Housing Alliance is a group of housing associations that develop and manage affordable homes in rural areas across England. Their aim is to work together to share innovation, good practice and ideas, advocate the need for affordable rural homes and provide a unified voice on key issues. Additionally, they enable rural housing associations to compare and learn from partners work in areas such as design and sustainability
  • The Rural Services Network brings together a wide range of organisations to provide a voice for rural communities across England. They provide a range of services to members and provide a platform for lobbying on rural issues. They include a rural housing network group for members[

In-house support

Where a local authority or housing association has the capacity and relevant skills, it may be able to provide in-house support for community groups developing CLH. Playing a role in this way can have the added benefits for organisations:

  • Having an influence on the schemes developed by being a partner in their development
  • Extending its in-house expertise in CLH
  • Being a potential source of third party funds/ revenue

For more information on how to build in-house capacity see section 2.1 of the Toolkit

Relevant Resources

Basic Two Hour Training Workshop


Last updated in March 2020