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Self-help housing: could it play a greater role?

Mullins, David (2010) Self-help housing: could it play a greater role? Working Paper. University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.


URL of Published Version: http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=OOND3GyKPPA%3d&tabid=500


Self-help housing ‘involves local people bringing back into use empty properties for their use, organising whatever repairs are necessary to make them habitable’ (http://self-help-housing.org/). This is usually based on a time-limited licence or lease, but sometimes on a permanent basis, and there are possibilities for asset transfer. Models of self-help housing range from informal community housing projects, to social enterprises that also involve construction skills and other training for homeless people, young people, refugees and other disadvantaged groups as part of a more holistic approach to providing housing and employment.

Self-help housing constitutes a small part of the housing-related Third Sector. However it epitomises a form of bottom-up organisation that once played a more important role, particularly in the late 1970s when municipal housing schemes were delayed by public spending cuts, leaving empty properties which had already been acquired, and were then brought into use by ‘short-life groups’. Now there would appear to be a similar opportunity in the context of reductions in public expenditure and policy support for self-help. Self-help housing seems to tick all the right boxes in offering a low-cost approach to meeting community housing needs (particularly for single people and couples who are not usually given priority for social housing), and maintaining some momentum in regeneration programmes while offering work training and experience to those participating.

However, while there are a number of successful self-help projects, these are generally small scale and ‘below the radar’. To be successful, self-help housing organisations need to secure a supply of properties, funding, volunteers and residents. Further research is required to identify how these success conditions can be met, drawing on the experience of self-help housing projects from the different organisational models identified above in different local contexts. It will be important to relate these experiences to contemporary policy and financial drivers and to use the research to engage with policy makers, property owners and funders and with self-help models in other service areas.

Type of Work:Monograph (Working Paper)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Number of Pages:30
Department:Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC)

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Date:September 2010
Series/Collection Name:TSRC Working Paper Series
Keywords:Self-help housing, empty properties, construction training, social enterprise, volunteers, communities, third sector organisations (TSOs)
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Related URLs:
Funders:Economic and Social Science Research Council, Office for Civil Society, Barrow Cadbury Trust
ID Code:802

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