Established support hubs have either been focused mainly on community land trusts or housing co-operatives, although most now offer advice to any form of community-led housing. Those supporting community land trusts have been mainly involved in supporting new groups and housing development, primarily in rural areas; those supporting housing co-operatives have been largely focused on providing management and financial services to existing groups, mainly in urban areas.
- In some parts of the country, access to specialist support is patchy. The network of support hubs is growing, but geographical coverage is limited
- Where the demand for community-led housing is strong and grant funding is available, for example through the Community Housing Fund, some local authorities have been able to help set up bespoke support arrangements
- Local authorities have already been helping to set up and fund new support hubs in London, Northumberland and North and East Yorkshire. Other hubs are emerging in Bristol, Leeds, Middlesbrough and several rural counties
A Power to Change report, commissioned in 2017 to advise on how new enabling hubs might best be supported, highlighted six critical success factors:
- Having a geographical coverage that is big enough to support the sustainability of the Hub in the longer term - not too small that it reaches capacity within 3 years and then runs out of funding because there are no or only very limited opportunities for new community-led housing schemes to come forward
- Developing a Business Plan that shows how the Hub will be financially supported and sustainable over the first five years
- Having the ability to hold and gain an income from assets, to ensure their future sustainability with limited or no grant. They do not need to include steps by which they will do this, but they should have a legal structure, or be part of a structure, that leaves this opportunity open
- Having an ability to offer and range of key skills and expertise, including:
- Explaining the different routes to achieving community‐led housing;
- Facilitating the identification of the appropriate legal structure for the group;
- Supporting groups with feasibility studies, housing needs surveys and business planning;
- Providing information and advice on funding, finance, land acquisition, asset transfers, housing development and management;
- Providing training on governance, management and community organising;
- Providing access to a range of (accredited) technical support professionals
- Acting as an intermediary between professionals/local authorities and community groups to facilitate understanding, constructive discussion and decision making
- Providing evidence that the Hub has the support of key local partners who will bring their own resources and expertise to both the governance of the hub and delivery, so community ambitions are translated into homes on the ground
Since 2018, Community Led Homes has been providing support for enabling hubs through two part time members of staff and a substantial grant funding programme, through the Community Housing Fund. Its aim has been to secure national coverage throughout England, to ensure that every community led housing group can access the support it needs from a reasonably accessible Hub and also ensure that these hubs are financially sustainable beyond grant support from the Community Housing Fund.
Power to Change is also supporting the growth of enabling hubs through its £4.2 million Homes in Community Hands programme, specifically in Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley City Region, West of England and West Midlands.
The Greater London Authority has provided grant support for the London Enabling Hub. See here.
This support for enabling hubs has proved to be very successful, with virtually every county in England and every major urban centre now having a Hub. Information on Hub coverage can be found in Toolbox Section 1.16. It is also available in the Community Led Homes site.