What is Community Led Housing? Ft. Levent Kerimol

Community-led Housing Explained by Levent Kerimol - Professional Insights and Illustrations


Empowering Communities: Insights into Community-Led Housing with Levent Kerimol

In our latest interview, we delve into the transformative world of community-led housing with Levent Kerimol, the director of Community Led Housing London. With a mission to empower groups to take control of their housing needs, Levent sheds light on the dynamics and benefits of this innovative approach.

What is Community-Led Housing?

Community-led housing (CLH) is a broad term encompassing various approaches where residents or wider communities have significant control over housing developments and management. Levent explains that this can include housing cooperatives, community land trusts, and co-housing, all of which share the principle of resident-led development and management. Unlike conventional housing, CLH emphasizes community involvement throughout the entire process, from development to long-term management, ensuring that housing solutions are tailored to the needs and desires of the community.

The Role of Community Led Housing London

Levent’s organization provides crucial support to groups embarking on CLH projects. This support ranges from legal and financial advice to helping secure land and planning permissions. “We have a team of advisers with various skills, mainly focusing on the development side,” Levent notes. Their role is akin to that of mentors, guiding community groups through the complex processes of forming legal entities, engaging with landowners, and developing sustainable business plans.

Success Stories: The Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS)

One standout project highlighted by Levent is the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) in Ladywell. Founded over a decade ago, RUSS is a community land trust with ambitions of creating sustainable, affordable housing through a community-led process. The project exemplifies the potential of CLH, combining environmental sustainability with affordability and community governance. “RUSS has over a thousand members, each with a say in the project’s governance, ensuring a democratic foundation,” says Levent.

The RUSS project involved securing a site from the Lewisham Council, raising funds through social investment, and engaging future residents in the design process. This participatory approach not only ensures that the housing meets the needs of its residents but also fosters a strong sense of community from the outset.

Challenges and Strategies in Community-Led Housing

While CLH projects are inspiring, they are not without challenges. Securing funding is often a major hurdle. Levent explains that groups need financial support for early-stage feasibility work and planning permissions, which can be hard to come by. However, there are various funding sources, including grants from the Greater London Authority (GLA) and social investment, which can help bridge the gap.

Managing a large, diverse group of stakeholders can also be complex. Levent advises having clear legal structures and governance mechanisms to streamline decision-making. “Successful groups often have a smaller core group that can make decisions more quickly, supported by a broader community for larger decisions,” he says.

The Role of Architects in Community-Led Housing

Architects can play a pivotal role in CLH projects. They bring essential skills in assessing sites, designing buildings, and understanding the development process. Levent suggests that architects can offer pro bono advice to help community groups in the early stages, potentially leading to future work opportunities. “Architects’ involvement can range from being prospective residents in a co-housing project to serving on boards or providing consultancy,” he explains.

Future of Community-Led Housing and Technological Impact

With the rise of technological advancements like AI, there is potential for these tools to support CLH projects. However, Levent believes that the core of CLH will always be the people involved. “Technology can provide tools, but the drive for CLH comes from a desire for social justice and community empowerment,” he asserts.

Encouraging Community Participation

Keeping community members engaged over the long term is crucial for the success of CLH projects. Levent recommends clear communication, regular engagement activities, and allowing new members to join and bring fresh energy. He also emphasizes the importance of viewing the journey as an opportunity for learning and growth, even if the project evolves over time.

Looking Ahead

Despite the current challenges in the housing market, Levent remains cautiously optimistic. By exploring new models that share development risks and integrating community involvement in existing developments, there are opportunities to continue expanding CLH. “We need to think creatively about how to build communities around developments and retrofit existing housing,” he says.

For those interested in learning more or getting involved in community-led housing projects, resources and support are available through organizations like Community Led Housing London. Visit their website for more information and to connect with others passionate about this transformative approach to housing.

Discover more inspiring content for architecture students and professionals at Architecture Social.