Liverpool Council launches ‘land for communities’ housing revolution

Former site of The Rathbone county primary school in Kensington Fields

Liverpool City Council has launched a ‘community-led housing revolution’ in which city council-owned land and properties will be marketed to local organisations.

Next Friday’s (January 20) cabinet meeting will consider a report which recommends the adoption of a Community Led Housing (CLH) Asset Disposal Policy, which aims to unlock vacant land and properties for community groups to convert into new homes.

The proposed policy echoes the ambition of the city’s Victorian and Edwardian ancestors who created the first social housing scheme in Europe and the UK’s first community-led housing group.

The cabinet report shows that phase one has already identified several plots of vacant land, including the site of a former school, baths and dozens of vacant houses that could be refurbished.

A key focus of the new policy is to stimulate new affordable housing in areas blighted by empty/derelict properties and to empower community organisations to deliver the design and build of more local homes.

The city council has already hosted consultation sessions with CLH groups on how to implement the policy and improve the offer for affordable homes in their areas – including social rent and shared ownership.

Assuming cabinet approval, phase one of the programme will see the following seven proposed sites marketed on the CLH page of the city council’s website:

  • Lot 1 – Three plots of vacant grassed land around Mill Street, Liverpool 8 – 2.3 acres
  • Lot 2 – Former Rathbone School Site, Albany Road, Liverpool 7 – 0.65 acres of vacant grassed land
  • Lot 3 – Two plots at Netherfield Road and Anderson Street, Liverpool 5 – 2.41 acres
  • Lot 4 – Land at Lodge Lane (former baths site), Liverpool 8 – 0.6 acres
  • Lot 5 – 26 properties in Picton
  • Lot 6 – Four properties in Granby
  • Lot 7 – Eight properties Granby

The disposals process for phase one could be concluded over the next 12 to 18 months, with proposals for each site to be assessed on a case-by-case basis set against deliverability, best value and social value scoring checks.

Working with Breaking Ground, the city region’s community housing advisory body, a guidance document has been created to provide user-friendly tips for CLH groups to use to support their expression of interest and business plans.

Governance of this process will be led by the city council’s CLH Working Group, which will make recommendations to the Community Assets Panel for final approval to dispose of assets. Although the value of each site will differ, each lease will carry the same surveyor fees of £3,000 and Legal fees of £2,000.

Each site will also be subject to thorough due diligence and may be removed from the list if the site fails assessment and cannot be brought forward under this programme. If phase one proves a success, the city council will look to roll out further plots of land and properties.

The community led housing programme supports the delivery of the Council Plan, aiming to increase the supply of green and affordable housing across the city as well as empowering people to drive improvements in their neighbourhoods through an open and transparent process.

The development of a CLH programme is also cited as a priority in the Council’s Interim Housing Statement (2022), while the Liverpool City Region 2019-2024 Housing Statement recognises the role of community partners in successful delivery of housing priorities. These priorities include increasing supply, improving choice and quality, supporting an ageing population, regenerating neighbourhoods, improving the quality of renting and tackling homelessness.

The adoption of a CLH programme comes just a few months after Liverpool City Council adopted a Community Asset Transfer Policy, which has identified a number of council-owned sites to be leased to community organisations to manage.

Cllr Sarah Doyle, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Development and Housing, said: “I’m hugely excited at the prospect that the people of Liverpool are going to be given the opportunity to start shaping the housing offer in their own neighbourhoods. This proposed Community Led Housing Policy gives them and the city council a framework to follow, and, crucially, the land and the properties to develop.

“If approved it will begin to unlock a number of vacant sites that have for too long blighted our communities and will eventually provide our residents new options in renting and owning their home. This is grassroots regeneration in action, housing shaped by the people, for the people.”

She added: “There are a number of hurdles for CLH groups to jump over, the due diligence process will be rigorous and the emphasis will be on financial deliverability, but based on the talks that have already taken place there is a steely determination and a quiet confidence to make this work.

“Given the steps involved for a business case to be approved and for the funding to be identified, and then for planning permission to be granted, this is not going to happen overnight. But the roadmap for this journey has been carefully thought out and developed.

“Our local groups that are forming land trusts and co-ops will be working with trained community-led housing advisors and will be given a huge amount of assistance to realise their dreams, not least from the city council and our partners at Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

“And their success will be everyone’s as it will trigger the release of more land and properties and put Liverpool back at the forefront of community and social housing once again.”

Paul Kelly, a Community-Led Housing Advisor with 30 years of experience in Liverpool’s social housing sector, said: “This is a landmark moment for Liverpool as it puts in place clear and transparent processes to support grass roots community groups to develop housing to meet their needs.

“It’s been a pleasure to support the CLH groups in Liverpool to collaborate with the city council on this policy. The social value impact of this work will be huge for local communities – the empowerment and skills development it brings will be invaluable at a grass roots level.”

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