The urban collective
October 2, 2011
Collective ownership models offer the chance of genuine progress in areas where regeneration has ground to a halt. But local and central government must learn to embrace them – or risk repeating mistakes of the past, argue Tom Archer and Rob Rowlands
Picture the scene, a demolition site where grass now grows on the mounds where terraced housing once stood and street lamps denote the century old layout of an urban settlement. Pinned up on the notice board is a grand vision – a masterplan for redevelopment.
But years roll past as a series of reticent developers express an interest and then think better of it. Those who once lived in this area, which was far from perfect before demolition, have long since been displaced. Despite well-intentioned efforts development has not taken place, and probably won’t for some time.
We know this place because we have studied it for five years. We have watched interventions, tracked them, scrutinised them and predicted the outcome. There was a point of hope at which residents meaningfully engaged, proposing a collectively-owned vehicle for regeneration; a community land trust. Unfortunately, this opportunity was not seized. This was not due to incompetence or a lack of vision, but through necessity.
The government programme concerned, housing market renewal (HMR), could not support these collective ownership models. Our research has taught us about the mutual exclusivity between organic forms of collective ownership and strategic intervention planned at a sub-region. It has taught us how state-led regeneration programmes often prevent the dispersal of power and assets to communities. And it has taught us how there is perhaps hope in the aftermath of HMR.