Community-led housing and loneliness: the research project
Cohousing, community land trusts, co-ops and other types of community-led housing emphasise connectedness and neighbourly support—indeed, many of them define themselves as ‘intentional communities’. Advocates say people who live in CLH have more and better social interactions through sharing space, responsibilities and interests. The government recently called loneliness ‘‘one of the greatest public health challenges of our time”. Could better access to these types of socially oriented housing help address the loneliness epidemic?
To find out, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has commissioned research into the link between community-led housing (CLH) and loneliness. Our team of researchers from LSE and the universities of Bristol, Lancaster and Northumbria began work in late 2019 on a ten-month project to investigate whether residents of and participants in CLH schemes experience less loneliness than people living in conventional housing, and if so why that is. The research has two main elements: an online survey of members of CLH groups, and in-depth case studies of five CLH communities in England, representing different types of CLH and a range of sizes, locations and ages.
About the research team
Each member of the interdisciplinary project team has a longstanding interest in community-led housing, and have for some time worked collaboratively with each other in the field.
Kath Scanlon, Distinguished Policy Fellow, LSE London
Kath, an economist and planner, is a career researcher at the London School of Economics. Her work is grounded in economics but also draws on techniques and perspectives from other disciplines including geography and sociology, and aims at improving the evidence base for policy decisions at national or local level. She has a longstanding interest in cohousing and other types of community-led housing, carrying out seven years of research into the attempt to establish a cohousing community in southeast London. A longtime collaborator of the Council of Europe Development Bank, she helped develop their framework for evaluating projects to improve housing for migrants and vulnerable groups.
Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia, Lecturer in Urban Futures, Sociology Department, Lancaster University
Melissa is an urban sociologist focusing on issues of housing transformations and home futures. Her work has looked at the destruction of social housing across the global North and South, resident-led activism and the production of alternatives through models like cohousing. She’s carried out a range of research projects looking at the social and material development of cohousing groups in London, at the professionalisation of the sector transnationally, and at the communal and interpersonal meaning and relations of living in a new scheme– including a focus on the gendered and age dimensions that run through these. Relevant publications can be accessed here.
Professor Karen West, School for Policy Studies, Bristol University
Karen is a professor in social policy and ageing and has a broad background in public and social policy. The focus of her work for the last twelve years has been on ageing, social care and later life housing. She has carried out many projects on these themes, including research on local community support services for older people, extra care housing and support, housing-based bereavement support and, most recently, the co-housing model and its suitability and relevance to later life. She is also a Senior Fellow of the National Institute of Health’s School for Social Care Research (SSCR) and is a Visiting Professor at the University Örebro in Sweden, where she teaches on and advises on the multi-disciplinary PhD programme on ageing.
Mara Ferreri, Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow, Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University.
After a PhD in Geography from Queen Mary University of London, she held a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Autonomous University of Barcelona where she coordinated the Commoning Housing project (commoninghousing.net) on emerging community-led housing in Catalonia. Her work has been published in international journals such as City, cultural geographies, Urban Studies and Geoforum. She recently co-authored the comparative report ‘International policies to develop user-led cooperative housing’ (LaDinamo, 2019).
Jim Hudson, Research Associate, LSE London
Jim is a social researcher whose work focuses on community led housing and ageing, and who recently completed a PhD that examined the social dimensions of cohousing projects established by groups of older people in Berlin. Prior to academia, he lived in Berlin for several years, running a business but also writing about the city’s housing architecture. In an earlier career, Jim worked for more than a decade for various architecture and building consultancy practices, primarily on social housing and public sector regeneration programmes across London. Most recently, he co-authored a report on the benefits of cohousing, which took a project in Bridport, Dorset, as a case study.
Banner image courtesy of Bridport Cohousing CLT