Middlesbrough Community Land Trust – revitalising homes in Gresham

Middlesbrough Land Trust is developing community-led housing in a highly deprived area to change the fortunes of the community.

Threatened with the widespread demolition of their homes, the residents of Gresham in Middlesbrough could have simply given up and walked away from a town that was already ravaged by social and economic problems. But they didn’t. Instead they fought to save their community. And they kept on fighting.

That was a decade ago and now that initial opposition group has transformed into a community land trust that is working hard to change the fortunes of Gresham through the power, resilience and determination of local people. Middlesbrough Community Land Trust is spearheading a community-led housing project in the very centre of this highly deprived area, and they are making huge strides forward.

Their plan was to rule out demolition and instead refurbish the existing housing stock – mostly Edwardian and Victorian terraces – to provide family homes for local people. Then they would rent out the houses and use the revenue to reinvest in the community as a whole. Though due to despite a lack of track record and a dire shortage of funds, their initial forays into the housing world were small.

They started by refurbishing three empty properties asset transferred to them by the council in 2012 and have recently completed two more. They are now also involved in the conversion of an commercial property into four flats (two with disabled access). And now that the threat of demolition has finally been lifted, they want to take on at least another 15 properties for refurbishment in the near future.

 

Houses

The CLT sees its work as not only tackling housing problems, but also as creating ways to engage with local people and to rebuild the  pride and confidence  that once underpinned their lives. They are also setting their sights on competing with private landlords who offer high rents and poor service. Instead the CLT  provides homes that have been carefully refurbished and just as carefully maintained and managed through a service level agreement negotiated with local registered housing provider Endeavour – part of North Star Housing Association.

The housing association also provides something unusual in such situations,  a no strings, free advice and support service to guide the CLT as it grows and  diversifies. This is because Endeavour has taken the view that communities really do hold the key to solving their own problems, and that organisations like Middlesbrough CLT are a very real part of the solution for Gresham.

This project is also impressive because it started as a negative opposition-based campaign dealing with a sceptical local authority, and has turned its input into a positive focus for the resilience of the community. Along the way, it has also built up strong and enduring relationships with the local authority and believes this is one of the most important of their achievements.

Updated November 2014