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Wales Co-operative Centre – Community values

Claire White reports on new research into the lived experiences of people in community-led housing in lockdown.

A year after the country was first plunged into lockdown to protect people and public services from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Communities Creating Homes – the Wales hub for Community-Led Housing (CLH) – has published research into how CLH residents have endured and survived the pandemic.

In Autumn 2019, we published an initial piece of research, Assessing the benefits of living in Co-operative and/or Community-Led Housing, which put into words what we felt we already knew. Residents living in this type of housing do experience a large range of benefits from living in their schemes including a greater feeling of community and less feelings of loneliness and isolation. Since the first lockdown, the negative impacts of the restrictions including a decline in mental wellbeing and an increase in people feeling isolated have been widely reported and remain a concern.

At Communities Creating Homes, we were interested in understanding the lived experiences of people in CLH schemes during the lockdown and how much of their experience could be attributed to their co-operative and community roots.  We knew this would complement and build upon the first piece of research so we commissioned The Social Effectiveness Research Centre to ask these important questions. The picture that has been captured was a positive one telling us that many people living in CLH felt more supported and less isolated than they may have done in other types of housing.

During the pandemic, we have all seen media reports about community members who have galvanised themselves and perhaps we have ourselves been involved in activities supporting those who are vulnerable and less able. As a CLH hub, we have been impressed by how our clients have displayed co-operative values and helped their wider community.

The positive impacts that residents taking part in the research attributed to living in CLH as opposed to if they lived in other types of housing reflected these co-operative and community values and included:

  • Reduced isolation and loneliness
  • Greater financial security
  • Better physical living conditions (e.g., more outside space)
  • Reduced psychological/mental distress
  • Closer links to the wider community
  • Greater practical support (e.g. day to day tasks, shopping, etc…)

In the words of one CLH resident:

‘I feel very fortunate to have been here for the lockdown as I have felt protected and supported, otherwise I would have been entirely on my own.  The support has been physical and psychological, and I have space to move around in.  We have experience in respecting each other’s wishes, which helped with social distancing.  These things are, I believe, unique to cohousing.’

For more information about CLH and how your organisation can get involved, or for a copy of the published research contact the Communities Creating Homes team by emailing [email protected] or visit the website wales.coop/co-operative-community-led-housing/

Claire White is monitoring & evaluation officer – Communities Creating Homes, Wales Co-operative Centre

 


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