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New Garden Cities will inspire co-operative communities

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th December 2013


Via Pat Conaty:

The report’s PDF version is at this link: http://www.uk.coop/commonssense

“New garden cities are needed to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, create sustainable communities and help young people get on the housing ladder, a new report, ‘Commons Sense’ from Co-operatives UK argues.

With 1.7m people waiting for social housing and half a million overcrowded households, radical housing solutions are needed. Whilst there is an urgent need for 1.5m new homes by 2020, house building actually decreased by 11% in 2012, to just 117,190 homes – its lowest level since the 1920s.

Support for a new generation of garden cities is growing with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition all making supportive statements in the last two years.

And the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize, backed by Conservative Peer and Chief Executive of Next, Lord Wolfson, is offering £250,000 for the best proposal for a popular, visionary, self-financing 21st Century Garden City.
Garden cities history

Garden cities were pioneered in Letchworth by Ebenezer Howard, whose aim was to provide healthy homes for ordinary working people in leafy and spacious surroundings. Land was commonly owned by the community for the benefit of residents.

Howard’s plan for Letchworth designed in fully integrated public transport, municipally owned energy systems and the nation’s first greenbelt for urban farms to facilitate food security for a city of 33,000.
Co-operative place making

‘Commons Sense’ calls for planners and politicians, councils and communities to rediscover the radical spirit of garden cities – that land should be owned in common by the community.
It shows how garden cities are part of a broader vision for co-operative place making – bringing community agriculture, energy efficient homes and green energy projects together with other co-operative enterprises to create low carbon economies, largely self-sufficient for food and fuel.

This vision can be seen in the plans for 3,000 affordable new homes at Owenstown in Lanarkshire, named after co-operative pioneer Robert Owen. The residents of Owenstown will own the land collectively through a co-operative and enjoy state of the art energy-efficient homes with access to an allotment. Planning permission is pending.

Secretary General of Co-operatives UK Ed Mayo said:

“For housing, community and jobs, Britain now needs a new generation of garden cities. This is not just about pretty country cottages in well planned urban spaces. The garden city model, from the start, was for co-operative ownership of the underlying land, with the community benefiting from development that takes place on it. This is still a relevant and genuinely radical concept, designed not to create conflict over planning, but to foster consensus around appropriate development.”

Inspired by Letchworth and Community Land Trusts

The concept of co-operative place making has been inspired by the success of around 50 Community Land Trusts in the UK including Coin Street Community Builders and the Cornwall Community Land Trust.

Coin Street Community Builders have transformed a derelict 13 acre site on London’s South Bank since the mid-1980s, creating a thriving mixed use neighbourhood on community owned land with co-operative homes, a park, sports facilities and community buildings. The community also benefits from leasing out the shops, galleries, restaurants and bars on the site.
And in Cornwall, where high demand for second homes has priced out local people, Cornwall Community Land Trust has provided 105 affordable new homes since 2005 on 12 village sites. By separating the cost of land ownership, which is held by the community, new homes have been built in Cornwall for between 25% and 70% of the open market value. By using a Community Land Trust, the homes will remain affordable in perpetuity.

Whilst Community Land Trusts have been most successful in helping to address affordability issues in rural areas, they are now providing low cost solutions to deliver affordable housing and urban regeneration in a growing range of places including East London, Bristol, Liverpool, Rhyl, Banbury, Stroud and Middlesbrough.

Report editor, Pat Conaty said:

“Just as water, air, language, knowledge and culture are common to us all, the land that we build on should be commonly held for the benefit of the community who use it.

“As Letchworth and community land trusts do, we need to separate land ownership from properly ownership. Roughly half the cost of a home in most of western Europe is the land it is built on and half is the cost of building it. By taking sites out of the market and allowing the community to own the land, we can build housing and community facilities at roughly half the price. Moreover, any public investment into the community is shared by the community and not a small number of property speculators. Additionally economic rent can be captured for community benefit as Letchworth today still shows”

* Further details

Commons Sense: Co-operative place making and the capturing of land value for 21st century Garden Cities is being launched at Land & Community: Creating a 21st Century Commonstaking place on Thursday 5 December at Coin Street neighbourhood centre.

It is published by Co-operatives UK at www.uk.coop/commonssense. It has been produced in partnership with CDS Co-operatives, Charity Bank, Co-operatives UK, Ecology Building Society, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, Tridos Bank and and Community Finance Solutions at the University of Salford.”

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