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Five ways to build the ‘community’ in community housing

Written by Emma Hall, Senior Placemaker at Village Well



With Victoria’s Housing Statement articulating the aim to build 80,000 homes over the next decade, the Housing Australia Future Fund established in November 2023, and more funding through the the Big Housing Build on the way, here are some things that can help build successful social and community housing projects.


1.Share a common goal

As a developer, deliverer, or supporter, having a common vision for a project helps with alignment and builds strategic outcomes. Co-creating a shared vision with those who will be impacted by it (such as residents, staff and partners) will help build stewardship of the goals developed. A good vision and set of principles based on evidence can guide decision-making from development all the way to delivery. 


2. Engage your residents

Engaging residents is key to building a trusting community. Making people feel heard, asking what they need, and being transparent lets you explore possibilities together, but also articulate limitations. Even choosing to work from the communal kitchen twice a week will improve your knowledge of the challenges and aspirations of residents greatly… And it will let you know that the door in the level two stairwell isn’t working before there are 15 separate calls about it to the off-site maintenance team. 


3. A familiar face

Places feel much better with familiarity. When you have potentially just uplifted your life to move into social or affordable housing, you may be moving to an area where you know nobody... And nobody likes moving, so your anxiety and stress is be elevated. Having a go-to person, someone that knows your name and is trusted can make a huge difference to someone’s feeling of welcome. Familiarity can help a transition to living in a new home. Having a staff member on site has been shown to increase the perceived safety of spaces and increase use. (Shopworks Architecture, 2021) 


4. Provide opportunities to meet your neighbours

People often need an excuse to talk, to meet, and connect. By setting up a consistent, recurring event (such as a weekly tea and bikkies, a Tuesday taco night, a kids playgroup, or a monthly BBQ), people can come together to meet their neighbours. Having a great network of support systems, both on site and in the wider area increases a person’s resilience greatly. 


5. Curate a culture

Both the way homes are built and the curation of their programming and activations can help build community connectedness. Including multiple great gathering spaces, functional amenities, chances to interact, activities and more, can provide feelings of safety, welcome and inclusion. 


Contact Village Well at info@villagewell if you are a community housing provider and want placemaking support.


What is Community Housing?

“Community housing is secure, affordable, long-term rental housing managed by not-for-profit organisations for people on low incomes or with special needs.” (Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, 2023) Read more about social housing, public housing and community housing definitions here.



References:

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, 2023, Community housing, State Government of Victoria.

Shopwork Architecture, 2021, Trauma Informed Design Process, p.22-23

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