London Residents Take Matters Into Their Own Hands, Building Homes to Combat Housing Crisis

London Housing Project Empowers Families to Design and Build Their Own Homes

On Tuesday 4 June, 2024, families in southeast London celebrated a major milestone as they moved into the homes they designed and built themselves. The project, coordinated by the Lewisham-based organization, the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), is the capital’s largest community-led self-build housing project. The group was formed to address the lack of suitable affordable housing in the area.

After 15 years of hard work, the block of 36 homes is finally complete. Local volunteers, organized by RUSS, have been the driving force behind every stage of the process. From forming a group and acquiring land to raising funds, supervising architects and contractors, obtaining planning permission, and building and landscaping, the community has been involved every step of the way.

The homes are part of a community land trust, which means they are owned by a non-profit organization to keep them affordable. The units are offered in various sizes and tenures, including full ownership, part rent-part-buy, London Living Rent, and social rent, making them accessible to families of all income levels. Residents have a say in how their housing is managed through regular meetings in an on-site community hub, built by volunteers.

RUSS was established in response to the shortage of affordable housing in London. The group worked closely with key partners, including the Greater London Authority, the London Borough of Lewisham, the Cooperative Development Society, Triodos Bank, and Big Issue Invest.

The project’s principal architect is Shepherd Epstein Hunter, with contributions from Architype and Jon Broome Associates. The building boasts innovative social and environmental features. RUSS volunteers, including future residents, were involved in the design process, and occupants were given the option to self-build or self-finish their homes.

The building also features an air pollution sensor that will monitor the impact of trees and plants on air quality in the area.

Anurag Verma, Chair of RUSS, expressed his excitement about the project’s completion: “This has been a momentous and challenging project, but this community-led organization has succeeded in creating a sustainable neighborhood and a unique housing model. It demonstrates what can be achieved when ordinary people work together with a shared vision and determination. The project has been led by the community from the beginning, and the result is 36 homes with four different tenure options, tailored to the needs of the residents. We hope that other community groups will be inspired by this model and create their own housing to meet their needs.”

As part of the project, a new public riverside garden and play area is also being built. This was made possible by a crowdfunding campaign and a grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust.

This groundbreaking community-led housing project serves as a shining example of what can be achieved when individuals come together to address a pressing need in their community. Distributed by, the news of this project’s success is sure to inspire and empower other communities to follow suit.

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