Community-led housing improves residents’ wellbeing in Wales

New research found that living in housing co-operatives has positive effects of the health of residents

As Wales continues to drive community led housing, new research shows that the approach is beneficial for residents’ health and wellbeing.

Living in co-operative and community led housing schemes enables residents to experience improved mental wellbeing and happiness and develop new skills.

A new study by Wales Co-operative Centre, with support from the Nationwide Foundation, has found that residents living in community led housing felt less isolated (19%), improved mental wellbeing and happiness (16%) and had a better quality of life with the potential for skills development and increased levels of confidence (14%), as well as a better financial situation (10%).

The research also highlighted that they felt better supported, which also resulted in wider benefits to the community including a reduction in antisocial behaviour and greater community collaboration. They found that living in a housing co-op helped them improve skills, increase confidence, achieve better physical health and improve mental wellbeing. Furthermore, 6% said they were able to have a more environmental way of life.

The study is based on interviews with over 50 residents from 22 community led housing schemes across Wales and England, as well as a further 14 staff from nine of the co-operative and community led housing providers.

One resident said: “There is a sense of pride; empowered individuals; there is self-esteem and confidence in tenants; getting things done, no red tape; resolving social and relationship issues; some friendships have been built for life.”

Another resident added: “I have found a very supportive community of fellow housemates, receiving support during a period of illness and subsequently helping new members to find their feet in the household.”

Derek Walker, chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, said of the research: “We were really pleased with the research findings and the range of softer benefits that residents have seen. With one participant quoting improved employment opportunities as the biggest change they’ve seen. As well as the expected financial benefits, there is a much wider impact on mental wellbeing and skills development which is great to see.”

Gary Hartin, the Nationwide Foundation’s programme manager, said: “We’re incredibly pleased to have funded this much-needed piece of work. We’ve been enabling co-operative and community-led housing since 2013 and this type of housing is going from strength to strength in Wales. It’s very useful to now have evidence of the wider benefits of living in a scheme, including health and wellbeing.

“We certainly hope that this will persuade other communities to consider taking forward a scheme in their area, whether in Wales or the rest of the United Kingdom, as well as convincing decision makers of the wider benefits and value of co-operative and community-led housing.”

Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James AM, said the Welsh government remained committed to community-led housing in Wales. More than 30 community led housing schemes are currently in place across Wales. The government has pledged to build 20,000 affordable homes during this Assembly term.

“I have been overwhelmed in hearing the benefits residents gain from living in community-led housing. The difference tenants feel in terms of improved skills, increased confidence and improved mental well-being to name but a few – demonstrates why community-led housing can, and should be part of the solution to the housing crisis we face here in Wales.

“Building more affordable housing and providing people with safe, warm and secure homes is a key priority for this Welsh government,” said the minister.