Michael Clinton is Research Director at the Schumacher Institute and leads our consultancy services.
Initiative Homes is the new construction services consultancy launched by the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems. So why are we launching a construction services consultancy and who is it aimed at? A recent report by the National Housing Federation (NHF) entitled Broken Market Broken Dreams highlights what many of us already ‘know’; the housing market is not working for ordinary people. As Chief Executive of the NHF David Orr points out in the report, the UK “is suffering a catastrophic housing crisis that has been more than a generation in the making.”
We have all read stories about how first time buyers are priced out of the market and those who do get on to the ‘housing ladder’ have been increasingly dependent on support from parents. The main reason for this crisis is also well reported and incredibly simple: we do not build enough new houses. In this regard Housing Associations are seeking to take a lead and they certainly have significant market ‘clout’ – between them employing some 146,000 people. So, one small consultancy is not going to make that much difference compared to that kind of economic power.
However, there was another interesting point in the NHF report; 8 out of 10 people surveyed by YouGov believe that “none of the main (political) parties will effectively deal with the issue of housing.” There appears to be an increasing disaffection with big, distant organisations with many wanting greater control over their own affairs – just look at the post-Scottish referendum debates that have sprung up.
Perhaps it is little wonder that in launching Initiative Homes we have found significant interest in local solutions to local housing needs. Many communities feel they want greater say in their own affairs and are increasingly likely to act on those feelings as well. Across a whole range of issues people are looking to do things differently and that includes housing needs. Within weeks of launching the service we are in early stage discussions with three groups around the South West and South Wales about self-initiated projects. It is this idea of local initiative that gave us the inspiration for the name, Initiative Homes, and suggested the role of providing technical support in a collaborative way, working alongside communities and self-forming groups to deliver much-needed new homes.
We, as a community focused organisation, are not going to solve the national housing crisis, but by working with local communities we can perhaps demonstrate an alternative, more inclusive community based approach to solving our problems.