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'We build our own homes': Practices of power and participation in a community land trust development

Griffin, Emma

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This thesis narrates the first three years of a 50 unit housing project carried out by Bristol Community Land Trust in partnership with a Housing Association. Working in close collaboration with prospective residents and to a lesser extent, other non-resident stakeholders involved in the project, this thesis provides insight into the participants' aspirations and motivations for being involved. Additionally, it documents the challenges and obstacles Bristol Community Land Trust faced in trying to bring the project to fruition and reflects on the spaces made for prospective residents to meaningfully participate in the development process.

This research is located within an urban English context, which is concerned with the shortage of affordable housing, and seeks to explore alternatives to increased individualisation and privatisation, arguably promoted in conventional models of housing delivery. This research is not only concerned with finding ways to deliver more affordable housing provisions, but is located in conversations on how communities can participate and collaborate in the development of these provisions.

As a starting point, this research highlights the growing popularity of community land trusts and in particular, the increasingly common partnerships that are forming between community land trusts and Housing Associations. Whilst acknowledging that these partnerships are believed to be positive in enabling projects to move through the development process with greater ease (Moore, 2016), this research starts from a position of caution, asking what, if anything, is lost through collaborations between community and non-community organisations, and how prospective residents experience the development process under these partnerships.

This research set out to examine whether Bristol Community Land Trust met prospective residents' aspirations of community-led housing. A participatory approach was employed to encourage research participants to adopt more of a co-researcher role, and to call into question who are the experts and who can participate in producing knowledge. The research sought to contribute to the case study group as well as to academia. The methodological approach used in this research was supported by the use of theories of power and community power to frame the analysis of findings. The stories captured as part of this research are entwined with broader observations on the practices of bringing a community land trust project to fruition.

This research captures how the nature and form of Bristol Community Land Trust led to struggles in enacting aspirations of community access and participation. Power played an important role in shaping the experiences of members from different stakeholder groups, whilst institutional and external pressures compounded issues of top-down governance. However, this research also points to ways that Bristol Community Land Trust stands to challenge who accesses community-led housing and to act as a driver of high-quality, shared equity and social rented housing, which is influenced by local community members and future residents, and is designed to foster high levels of social cohesion.

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Jun 7, 2019
Keywords community led housing, collaborative housing, power, community, community land trusts
Public URL
Award Date Feb 2, 2019


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