Flexible homes: the solution to the housing crisis?

A Suffolk village community are coming together to find innovative solutions for the affordable housing crisis facing local people priced out of their communities. East Bergholt Community Land Trust  (EBCLT) has just held its second AGM and is celebrating achieving some significant milestones.

Established following a recommendation in the village Neighbourhood Plan, the EBCLT has been set up as a not-for-profit company with support from Babergh DC and EC Community Housing (formally CLT East). Following an accommodation needs survey, a community consultation and a land audit, demand has been established from those with strong local connections for affordable housing suited to young people and families as well as older people needing specially adapted homes and supported living. However, rather than just building traditional properties EBCLT is considering building more radical future-proofed smart housing that adapts to our changing needs as we age.

Flexible housing: the solution to the housing crisis? East Bergholt sign

Speaking at the AGM Ian Spero, Chief Executive of the Government-funded Agile Ageing Alliance, outlined an inspirational vision of homes that can be adapted as we age. Drawing on findings in the Neighbourhoods of the Future report he described how adaptable flexible whole life homes is the future, where the spaces can be readily reconfigured as our needs change over our lifetimes. Interest is growing in multigeneration housing with all generations co-existing together. He advocated a move away from the outdated standard layout of most modern housing towards flexible technologically enabled sustainable energy-efficient construction techniques.

Modern technology needed to enable the elderly

Ian challenged the absence of modern technology supporting older people wanting to continue to live in their own homes. He pointed out that the most common device offered to support independent living was still the pendant alarm, a decades’ old technology disliked by many as an obvious “badge” of ageing.

EB CLT Chairman Chris McEwen commented: “We live in a lovely village but house prices are high and many with strong local connections cannot afford to live here. After two years of painstaking preparation, we are now focusing on some specific opportunities to build the types of homes that people want and need. I do like the idea of Hybrid housing development.”

Affordable housing hope for communities

Many industry experts believe Community Land Trusts provide a beacon of hope that there will be sufficient affordable homes in future years to those wanting to remain in their communities but currently driven out by scarcity and high housing costs. Unconstrained by traditional building approaches CLT’s can explore new approaches to housing, maximising the use of smart technology more suited to 21st-century living.