May webinars: Different Types of Community-led Housing

Last month we were really pleased to offer four webinars, as part of the Wessex Community Housing Hub, all about models of community-led housing. We were joined by four guest speakers who shared their experiences, telling us about group formation, how they found a site, building the homes, and ultimately going on to live in their community-led housing. If you weren’t able to make the webinars, or didn’t hear about them, now is your chance to catch up! We’ve uploaded them all here, including a brief introduction video, and hope you find them a valuable resource.

(Please note they are live recordings, so there are a few glitches and pauses as we sorted out the technology, which cannot be amended. If you have any questions about community-led housing, do get in touch with our Community Housing Adviser, Colin McDonald, who will be able to answer or signpost you to further resources:


Housing Co-ops

Guest speaker: Trevor Houghton, Somewhere Housing Co-op in Bristol.


Guest speaker: Max Comfort, Springhill Cohousing in Stroud.


Guest speaker: Anna Hope, Ashley Vale Action Group in Bristol.

Community Land Trust

Guest speaker: Keith Jenkin, Lyme Regis CLT.

Learn how to build a Tiny Home with Raise the Roof

Raise the Roof, a collaborative project, is running a training programme in Dorset. To find out more and get in touch, find the details below!

Are you interested in a career in sustainable construction?

There is a pressing need to build more affordable homes, but at the same time we need to create a low carbon, sustainable construction sector, using local materials such as timber, clay and straw.
Over the last two years, a group of local partners have been exploring how we might link the use of local materials – in particular, timber – to affordable housing. We are now organising a training programme, offering local people the opportunity to learn skills in sustainable construction – in particular, timber framing and carpentry. We will also be exploring design skills and how to combine wood with other local materials such as fibre, bio-composites and clay.

We are particularly keen to offer places to women, people over 50 and to young people not in
education or training. We are offering free places to people meeting the criteria for selection.

The programme

Participants will be offered the choice of a place on one of two courses, where we will learn how to build a micro-house (a low impact dwelling, sometimes referred to as a tiny house). Once built this will be donated to Elim Connect, a homelessness charity working with entrenched rough sleepers who have requested this kind of accommodation. These courses will be held over 5 days in September and October. There will be 3 additional one day sessions, offering further practical skills training in the morning and advice and guidance on further training and employment opportunities.

We are working with a team of local builders, carpenters and designer-makers, including Karen Hansen, Alice Blogg, James McLellan, Adrian Janssen, Anna Lena Hahn and Jeremy Snell. For further information, and to register your interest, please email:

Raise the Roof is a partnership between Wessex Community Assets, Assemble, Common Ground, Dorset AONB, Dorset Wood Hub, Bridport Town Council, and The Arts Development Company. (The photo belongs to Assemble).

Meet the Norton-Sub-Hamdon CLT community shop

Our Community Housing Adviser, Colin McDonald, went along to the Norton-Sub-Hamdon CLT community shop, to pick up some supplies, and see how they’re getting on in the crisis.

All over the country communities have come together to help each other and protect the most vulnerable at a time when the pandemic threatens us all. The Community Shop at Norton sub Hamdon in Somerset is just one example. A few years ago the Community Land Trust, which was already working with Yarlington (a Housing Association) on a local housing scheme, stepped in when the shop might otherwise have closed. These days the shop has two members of staff but is otherwise run by volunteers; although inside there is also a post office which is staffed separately.

The Government advice on self-isolating caused an initial problem with many of the existing volunteers in the group expected to stay at home for at least 12 weeks. All was not lost though as others soon came forward, including locals furloughed from work and students not currently able to return to University. At the same time the shop began a new ordering system for anybody self-isolating including neighbouring villages. Several directors of the CLT, and quite a few others, stepped forward to make the deliveries. The new service was advertised in the traditional way locally (posters on certain telegraph poles that serve as local messaging boards!) as well as through the different Parish Councils.

As well as helping some of their neighbours stay safe, they’ve seen an increase in the turnover at the shop. Everybody is hopeful that once the current wave of the virus is over, some of that increased custom with people who hadn’t previously used the Community Shop will be kept.

Join a free Housing Hub webinar

A fortnight ago we had to take the decision to cancel the remaining four events of our Community Housing Hub launch programme, which was disappointing, but it felt like the right thing to do. Our first two events at the beginning of the month, at Seavington in South Somerset and Wells in Mendip, were really successful, beginning some great conversations and making some helpful connections. 

Communities everywhere are facing serious challenges at the moment, and times are uncertain. Whilst we appreciate that many of you may have more urgent issues right now, for those of you who do have the time, we want to keep sharing the Wessex Community Housing Hub. To reach as many people as possible we’re going to be running a webinar on Wednesday 1st April, at 2pm and repeated at 7:30pm, as a replacement for the cancelled events. You can find out more here, and sign up to your preferred time. You’ll be sent joining instructions so it will be really simple to participate. 

Even if you can’t make the webinar, we want you to know that the Housing Hub is still open and accessible, whether it be that you’re worried about what the current restrictions mean for your community housing project, or you want to start a project but don’t know what to do first, we’re here to help and will be for the foreseeable future!

Introducing the Wessex Community Housing Hub

What is the Hub?

Wessex Community Housing Hub is a new initiative giving local groups the support they need to develop innovative community-led solutions to housing.

To launch the Hub, we are holding six free events in March and April 2020 across Dorset and Somerset to introduce people to what the hub can offer, and how you can get involved. We’re looking forward to seeing local councillors, officers, and community partners in the room, alongside representatives from successful community housing groups who will be on hand to share their experiences of setting up their own community-led housing initiatives. 

As part of a national strategy to transform the housing sector, Wessex Community Assets (WCA) has become one of 26 ‘enabler hubs’ in the country. The Community Led Homes Enabler Hub Grants Programme aims to expand the network of specialist regional organisations, helping groups of local people to develop their own community-led housing solutions. The programme has been funded by the Community Housing Fund from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is increasing our capacity to provide even more support to local housing projects in Somerset, Dorset, and Devon.

I thought WCA was already doing this?

WCA has been working in the community housing sector for the past 20 years, with a successful history of supporting, developing, and completing projects in Somerset, Dorset, and Devon. To achieve this, we work with communities to enable them to develop homes for local people that will be affordable in perpetuity and which will be built in the way the community decides, on a site of their choice and to their design. We have been particularly successful with the development of Community Land Trusts. Our Wessex CLT Project has supported CLTs to partner with Housing Associations, completing 20 CLT projects resulting in approximately 200 homes. With 41 new sites in development, we will be continuing this positive work through the Hub, but now with a wider strategy to deliver different forms of community-led housing in the Wessex area. 

What will the hub do?

The primary aim of the Wessex Community Housing Hub is to give groups the opportunity to explore community-led housing projects using the right model for them. Different communities require different approaches, and there are many types of community housing. There is no ‘one size fits all’. To support these communities we provide information about legal structures, democratic governance, and direct them to partners and contractors who can help with various stages of the process. We are excited to work with a diverse range of groups exploring various models: co-operative or co-housing schemes; creating new builds either in partnership with Housing Associations or by working alone; using local materials and resources to support the regional economy; and purchasing and refurbishing existing properties.

To engage with the Hub, join us at one of the six events across Somerset and Dorset to find out more about this next step by registering for your ticket here. If you cannot make it to your local event, you are very welcome to come to another.

Register Here

Seavington Millenium Hall, South SomersetThursday 5 March 6-8pm

Elim Connect Centre, Wells, MendipTuesday 10 March 6-8pm

Dorford Centre, Dorchester, DorsetTuesday 17 March 6-8pm

Poole Museum, Poole, Bournemouth, Christ Church and PooleThursday 19 March 6-8pm

Victoria Park Centre, Bridgwater, SedgemoorWednesday 25 March 6-8pm

Taunton Conference Centre, Taunton, Somerset West and TauntonWednesday 1 April 6-8pm

Hub Image-01

Welcome to Colin, our Community Housing Adviser!

Wessex Community Assets are pleased to welcome Colin McDonald onto the team, as the Community Housing Adviser for the new Wessex Community Housing Hub.

Colin is the first port of call for any groups setting up a housing project, and he is well placed to do so, having worked in the development of new housing for the past 20 years, and in the social housing sector generally for over 30 years. He began his journey almost 40 years ago as a tenant of a Housing Co-operative!

He is very familiar with the Wessex region, having worked for Local Housing Authorities in Somerset, and also for a local Housing Association.. He has worked on the front line in homelessness and in housing management, and more strategically as Head of Housing and Welfare at South Somerset District Council. After retiring from Local Government he joined his local Community Land Trust.

Colin is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing, has served on the national governing body, has a Masters degree in housing, and is a founder member of a ‘specialist support’ Housing Association. 

From now, Colin is the Community Housing Adviser for Wessex Community Housing Hub, with the mission of advocating and accelerating new forms of community-led housing in the region.

If you are involved in any community-led housing project in Somerset or Dorset, we encourage you to get in touch with Colin and see how we can work together to support your project. You can do this at one of our upcoming events, throughout March and into April or by sending him an email

If you want to keep up more generally with the progress of the Wessex Community Housing Hub, and other WCA projects, you can subscribe to the newsletter here

Cheriton Bishop Community Land Trust wins top award

Eight affordable homes for rent, which were completed and occupied in Cheriton Bishop at the end of January last year, have been named as winners of the Best Rural Housing Development in the Devon Rural Housing Partnership 2018/2019 Rural Housing Awards.

Alan Quick – Crediton Courier

The success of the CLT, supported by Wessex Community Assets, received press coverage recently. Read the full article in the Crediton Courier here