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Community-Led Self-Build Housing Project in Southeast London Creates Affordable Homes

Families in southeast London are celebrating the completion of a groundbreaking housing initiative that empowers residents to design and construct their own homes. Coordinated by the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), this ambitious self-build project represents the capital’s largest community-led effort to address the pressing need for affordable housing.

A 15-Year Journey

The block of 36 homes, located in Lewisham, has been 15 years in the making. Local volunteers, mobilised by RUSS, have been instrumental at every stage of the process. From forming the community group and securing land to raising funds, overseeing architects and contractors, obtaining planning permission, and collectively building and landscaping, these dedicated individuals have transformed their vision into reality.

Community-led Self-build Housing Project In Southeast London Creates Affordable Homes
community-led self-build housing project in southeast London creates affordable homes

Affordable Housing for All

The homes are part of a community land trust, ensuring their affordability. Various housing options are available, including full ownership, part rent-part-buy London Living Rent, and social rent. This inclusive approach means that families of all income levels can find a place to call home. Residents actively participate in managing their housing through regular meetings at an on-site community hub, constructed by volunteers.

Key Partnerships and Innovations

RUSS emerged in response to the scarcity of suitable affordable housing in London. Collaborating with essential partners such as the Greater London Authority, the London Borough of Lewisham, the Cooperative Development Society, Triodos Bank, and Big Issue Invest, RUSS championed this transformative project.

The architectural team, led by Shepherd Epstein Hunter, with contributions from Architype and Jon Broome Associates, prioritised social and environmental features. RUSS volunteers, including future occupants, played a pivotal role in co-designing the development. Residents had the option to self-build or self-finish their homes, fostering a sense of ownership and pride.

Measuring Environmental Impact

An air pollution sensor installed within the building will monitor the effects of trees and plants on air quality in the area, promoting sustainability and well-being.

A Vision Realised

Anurag Verma, Chair of RUSS, expressed pride in the community’s achievement: “This momentous and challenging project demonstrates what ordinary people can accomplish when they share a vision and determination. Our community-led organization has created a sustainable neighbourhood and a unique housing model. We hope other groups will draw inspiration from our success and create housing solutions tailored to their needs.”

As part of the project, a new public riverside garden and play area are under construction, made possible through a crowdfunding campaign and a grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust.


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