A working prototype for doing housing differently
WeCanMake is a people-led response to the housing crisis. We are a community land trust creating affordable homes using micro-sites in big back gardens and in between buildings. Our neighbourhood test-space shows that through creative community-driven innovation, it is possible to seed change within the current system.
Below we share the ingredients that make up our working prototype. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix, but more of a modular menu from which you might wish to choose elements to adapt and adopt for your context – whether you’re a community in housing need, or a local authority wanting to embrace innovative tactics and tools.
7 ways to make good homes – the wecanmake prototype
Establish a people-led process of gentle densification as an alternative to greenfield sprawl and high-rise towers. Make use of neglected back gardens and left-over spaces between buildings to adapt and enhance the capacity of the existing urban fabric to create space for new homes.
People in housing need can opt-in to use the resources they do have access to – land – in a new way to create affordable homes precisely where they are most needed. For example, for elders who want to downsize but stay in the community, or easing overcrowding in households where adult children need a place of their own.
The innovative land assembly model unlocks micro-sites in low density neighbourhoods. Land assembly and planning consent are conditional on the land and homes being owned by the community, and affordable in perpetuity. This creates a new supply of land in the form of CLUES – Community-Led Urban Exception Sites.
The community positively sets the rules for what gets built through a Community Design Code, ensuring homes are high-quality and add character to the neighbourhood.
Use Modern Methods of Construction to localise the production of homes. This ensures the homes are low carbon and enable the community to retain more of the value of development in the form of local jobs, skills and tech infrastructure.
Our Living Rent policy sets the rent at no more than one-third of average neighbourhood household income, ensuring the homes are genuinely affordable for local people.
Our Good Home Social Value Framework provides a way for the community to decide, prioritise, measure, and communicate what matters most when new development happens in their area. This means valuing housing not just as a financial product or by the number of units delivered, but more about how new homes quantifiably contribute to creating local jobs, reducing loneliness, fostering pride of place, and tackling the climate emergency.
To find out more, check out our Playbook – an open resource that details the model and tools developed by WeCanMake.
scaling WeCanMake: unlocking 33,000 affordable homes
Nothing WeCanMake has done has required new policy or regulation. Within existing frameworks, we have created a new supply of land, charted a new route through the planning system, and developed a new way to diversify and localised the production of new homes and put them precisely where people want and need them most.
There are many other neighbourhoods across the UK and beyond experiencing similar challenges to ours. What we have found and made in Knowle West is designed to be open for others to adapt and adopt for their own context. WeCanMake shows how communities and neighbourhoods can open up different routes to scale and impact: where aggregate numbers are realised through multiple, distributed and diverse communities using a common set of tools and methods to deliver development on their own terms.
If applied across England, the WeCanMake model of opt-in gentle densification could provide an additional 33,000 homes right where they’re needed.
We invite you to join us in exploring how the model can be adapted and adopted to new contexts. Click here to get in touch.