MD2207: Community-Led Housing in London

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Originally published in The Avery Review Issue 41

As David Madden of the London School of Economics wrote in June of this year, “housing has been a site of injustice for so long that it is easy to think this condition is permanent.”1 Indeed, while issues related to housing access and quality are endemic, in recent years London has been the site of some particularly scandalous episodes: estates with playgrounds segregated according to ownership or rental status, offices converted into homes of disastrous quality, and the incalculable tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire among them.2 Considering more day-to-day injustices in addition—rising homelessness figures, decreasing numbers of truly affordable rented properties, developer-led gentrification, insecure tenancies, flimsy tenants’ rights in the private market—it is clear that the overall picture is catastrophic.3

In response, increasingly desperate and frustrated Londoners are turning to previously unorthodox methods to resolve the housing questions that the British government consistently fails to address. In the UK, community-led housing developments have long occupied a marginal position, particularly in major cities.4 While there is a rich history of squatted and other autonomous communities in London, these have been heavily policed in recent years, arguably another contributing factor to high levels of homelessness. The relative prominence of baugruppen projects in Berlin—in which a group forms to collectively develop high-density, multifamily housing—and other cooperatively organized equivalents across Europe has not, to date, been matched in the UK.5 Yet this trend seems to be shifting.

Originally published in The Avery Review Issue 41

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