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Citizens House, Unity Way, Lewisham

  Status: Under construction

Size: 11 homes 

Affordability: ~65% of open market value (2-bedrooms for £272,500, 1-bedrooms for £215,000)

About

Citizens House is an 11-home, genuinely and permanently affordable housing project in Sydenham, Lewisham (near Brasted Close), and is London CLT's first direct development. Home prices are set at rates that are accessible for people on average incomes in Lewisham, and when residents move out, they must sell at a similar level, giving new local families a chance to buy a home they can afford.

It has been co-designed by the community, with local people making key decisions at every step of the way. With construction now nearly completed, we have 11 households moving in from January 2023, including families who have roots in Lewisham, and many in Sydenham. They are an assortment of teachers, artists, NHS workers – people whose remaining aids the local economy by ensuring that people core to the running of local infrastructure and culture are not forced out, improving social cohesion in the area.

Find more information about the designs for this project in our latest Annual Report.

Waiting list

All homes have now been allocated, but you can still apply to be on the waiting list.

To be eligible you need to:

  • have lived in Lewisham for at least 5 years and preference is given to those in Sydenham and Forest Hill,

  • be able to obtain a mortgage (which entails having 5% or 10% of the asking price in savings and a steady source of income),

  • be able to demonstrate housing need.

How to apply to be on the waiting list:

  1. Become a London CLT member

  2. Complete this eligibility test - if eligible you will have the opportunity to purchase a login (£8) for our online application.

  3. Complete an online application on Salesforce

  4. If shortlisted, attend an interview with our Independent Allocations Panel

  5. Go through mortgage application and conveyancing process

Read more about the Allocations Process by clicking here. If you have read through the above and want to know more you can also email allocations@londonclt.org.

What next?

Even with Citizens House now nearly completed and residents moving in from January 2023, community engagement is far from over. London CLT has been training and collaborating with the new residents to form a resident management company, to build relationships with neighbours on the surrounding estates, and to continue advocating the local council to create more opportunities for similar community-led projects.

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Lewisham Citizens action at Lewisham Town Hall, May 2018.

Campaign History

Click here to watch videos about how our project got started in Lewisham.

Led by Lewisham Citizens, the campaign began in 2014 with people in Lewisham talking about what challenges local people were faced with. A lack of affordable homes came up time and time again. Community-led, permanently affordable homes in the form of a community land trust was selected as a campaign priority to ensure that there are homes available for key members of the community who would otherwise be forced out. Lewisham Citizens and a committed group of people who live in the neighbourhood started working with London CLT and other local organisations to try to make this a reality.

 

The campaign started putting pressure on the council, lobbying politicians and building up support to access land and financing to support construction. Lewisham Citizens and London CLT held a series of community events, design sessions and neighbourhood walks to identify sites that were disused or vacant.

 

On 23 March 2016, the Mayor of London directed Lewisham Council to start working with Lewisham Citizens and London CLT to develop a fully affordable housing scheme on a garage site adjacent to the Brasted Close estate.

 

This was a major win for local people – the possibility of genuinely community-led affordable housing to keep people in the neighbourhood they grew up in and have contributed to their entire lives. Lewisham Citizens and London CLT then embarked on an intensive community-led design process to engage the local Sydenham community in transforming their own neighbourhood starting with this small piece of land.

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“Years ago, in May 2014, Lewisham Citizens made the first approach to the [then] Mayor of the Borough, Sir Steve Bullock at an Assembly of 400 Lewisham Citizens, to request the Council to provide us with some land on which to build some CLT homes. He responded positively if cautiously to that request, which it fell to me to make, and after many explanatory meetings first with Mayor and Councillors, and later with Council officials, we were granted a garage site in Sydenham, part of a council housing estate. We made overtures to the residents and neighbours, and gradually built up a steering committee to help us with the plans, they chose an architects team, who also were very community orientated, and in May 2018 our plan went to the Council. We... are delighted with the beautiful, thoughtful plan our team have finalised and shown to the residents.” - Nano McCaughan of South London Citizens
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Community-led Design Process 

Inclusion, responding to local needs, building capacity, listening and community ownership were all central to the community-led design process.

 

Once the site was agreed in 2016, Lewisham Citizens kicked off the design process with a July community picnic, followed by open meetings over the following months to engage more and more residents through leafleting and inviting neighbours. Local people discussed hopes and fears, as well as criteria for selecting an architect, culminating in a “choose your architect” event in September when Archio Architects was selected to co-design.

 

Archio held a three-day workshop, setting up a “temporary architect’s office” for local people to get involved with making, modelling and drawing ideas. 30+ residents joined and shared stories about the site and discussed how they would be affected by the development. 48 students/staff from nearby St. Bartholomew’s Primary School also attended a workshop about designing a community garden.

 

In 2017, London CLT convened a core group of residents to act as the Community Steering Group for the project, committing to meet monthly and play a valuable decision-making role, as well as helping to organise wider engagement events. 2017 culminated in a big Christmas workshop to update the community on the latest proposals and to ask residents about building materials, public space usage and more.

 

Since planning was submitted in 2018, local people have continued to be involved through workshops about landscaping and sites nearby, painting a mural a start-on-site celebration in 2021, tile-picking workshops with new residents, and site tours in 2022.

See here for the planning permission.

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"Securing the land and gaining permission to build was only the first part of the journey. Ensuring the homes would be a place of warmth, comfort, safety and ultimately a sanctuary would be the next step, as well as making good on London CLT’s commitment to transforming neighbourhoods by supporting the local people to have control over where they live. The main aspiration for our steering group was... to create a community, where nature and green spaces are fully utilized so children can play safely and residents meet. The homes had to be affordable whilst ensuring the quality would be maintained... Everything from the layout of the space to the material finishes contribute towards residents’ health, mood and productivity. So the homes were designed to be light and airy, optimising space efficiently and boosting spirits and energy... The existing walkway linking Brasted Close to Carlton Terrace has been kept and will be landscaped as a communal area to invite discussion, conversation and friendship."- Janet Emmanuel, Citizens House Community Steering Group & Deputy Headteacher at Sydenham School
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Archio's "temporary architect's office"  community-led design workshop, 2016.

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Citizens House new residents, May 2022.

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