In England the average house price in 2019 was £240,000 and average earnings were £30,667. However, in Devon the picture is very different. The average house price was £253,000 (5% higher) and average earnings were £26,234 (15% lower) making it much harder for the average person to afford their own home here in Devon.* Rent is similarly affected. After paying rent people in Devon have nearly £4,000 per year less than people in other regions to pay for everything else.*
The Diverse Regeneration Company (a not-for-profit CIC) has successfully worked with communities over the past 15 years to help meet the local need for new sports facilities, village halls, playgrounds and more. They are now working with Resonance, a social impact investment company headquartered in Cornwall, to continue this work with the launch of a new community asset fund which will put local people at the heart of the decision making process about what their communities need most.
The new fund is called Resonance Community Developers (RCD) and its purpose is to help communities design and deliver the assets that they need; bringing local stakeholders together to address local infrastructure needs such as affordable housing, sports and leisure facilities or renewable energy generation.
Although this is a new fund, Resonance has previously worked with community groups in Devon to successfully deliver affordable homes – in Holsworthy, Broadhempston and Beer – through their Affordable Homes Rental Fund (AHRF).
In Broadhempston a community-led organisation – Broadhempston Community Land Trust (CLT) – embarked on developing six self-build homes that were completed in 2016. Each household received a 25% stake in the property they built in return for their labour and then continued to pay rent on a further 50% whilst the remaining 25% stays with the CLT. Rents were then set at 20-25% below the open market rate for the area, making the homes affordable. A small proportion of the rent payment each year buys further equity and means occupiers own a little more of their house. Applicants had to demonstrate being resident in the parish for the preceding two years (or for five years at some time in the past). They also had to have a household income not in excess of £60,000. The project was a group self build where all members worked on each others’ homes. Two sympathetic local builders were employed at different times to provide support, training and advice, whilst professional building expertise was brought in as required. A wide range of volunteers from the local FE College, to the probation service, as well as interested members of the public all helped with the build. All the self-builders now work in the local community and a community playground and orchard have been constructed.
RCD invests capital into community groups like Broadhempston but this new initiative will be exclusively for ‘Community Benefit Societies’ which can issue community shares. It aims to invest multiple times in the same community groups, with small incremental investment in the early stages leading to larger investments as groups secure land and planning consent and commence the actual construction of homes or sports facilities.
The Diverse Regeneration Company (The DR Company) are experts at working with communities across Devon; from the first initial project ideas through to turning those ideas into reality. DR Company are now encouraging communities to get in touch even if they’re unsure where to start.
Liz Abell at The DR Company says: “This is a very exciting opportunity for our local Devon communities to be a part of, allowing them a real say in the type of project they would like for their area. These projects will help communities become more self-sustaining over the longer term, whilst also supporting those in their local communities who may have little or no choice in terms of existing housing. We are very pleased to be working with Resonance, which has a strong track record both here and across the UK, for successfully delivering these kinds of projects. This is also a valuable means of independent funding, during a time when council budgets are greatly stretched. As such we are really keen to hear from anyone with ideas for their community, either great or small, so we can assess the ideas and help them move forward to a successful outcome.”
Contact the Diverse Regeneration Company by email: [email protected]
* www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/datasets/ratioofhousepricetoworkplacebasedearningslowerquartileandmedian and www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/datasets/privaterentalmarketsummarystatisticsinengland