Community-Led Development

A new publication sets out how Community-Led Housing can make progress in Ireland


Pictured: Cloughjordan EcoVillage (Eoin Campbell / Just Media)

Padraig Flynn

Director and Researcher, Self-Organised Architecture

“Community-Led Housing is an example of bottom-up, active citizenship as its best, with the potential to put the humanistic perspective of housing provision centre stage, with communities and citizens at the heart of neighbourhood development, embracing the idea of homes as a social good.”

­ – President Michael D Higgins

In recent decades, Community-Led Housing has received growing policy recognition in the UK (particularly England and Scotland), due in part to the advocacy work of organisations such as The National CLT Network, the UK CoHousing Network and Power to Change, among others.

However, until quite recently CLH did not feature in the housing policy of the Republic of Ireland, and as an approach has been largely unrecognised and poorly understood among the Irish public and in national debate. Despite a tradition of community house building (‘meitheal’) in Ireland, and a flourishing of resident-led cooperatives in the 1950s-70s, in recent decades housing in Ireland has been dominated by two primary development approaches – private market and social housing.

With the notable exception of Cloughjordan EcoVillage, an ambitious community-led housing project in County Tipperary, there are few examples of empowered resident-led housing initiatives in the Republic, and there is currently no supportive infrastructure in Ireland for CLH groups in terms of land allocation, affordable finance, or technical support.

This video provides a short introduction to the concept of Community-Led Housing and introduces some of the groups implementing this approach across Ireland.

Creating CLH infrastructure

Our non-profit organisation, Self-Organised Architecture (SOA), was founded in 2017 with a mission to develop and promote collaborative approaches to housing and neighbourhood development in Ireland. Following two years of action research, and an international conference hosted by SOA in Dublin in June 2019, we embarked in early 2020 on a multi-stakeholder project to roadmap a community-led housing infrastructure for Ireland.

Supported by The Housing Agency, The Land Development Agency, Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance and the Goethe Institut Irland, the project resulted in the launch by SOA in May 2021 of a new publication, Roadmapping a Viable Community-Led Housing Sector for Ireland. Inspired by the work of organisations such as the London Community-Led Housing Hub, and id22 (Berlin), this new publication consists of a series of five handbooks focusing on the specific context of Community-Led Housing in Ireland, offering guidance to CLH groups, policymakers, and the broader public in the areas of Policy, Finance, Land and ‘Getting Your Group Ready’.


Watch the launch webinar for SOA’s Roadmapping a Viable Community-Led Housing Sector publication

“What we’re aiming for here is neighbourhoods. It has partly to do with architecture, partly to do with geography, but it also has very much to do with human participation. Society is opening up to people living as active citizens in a participative society, and how are we going to embody that? How are we going to build that?”

– Patrick Lydon, Nimble Spaces, County Kilkenny

Roadmap infographics

Research for the publication focused on analysing CLH infrastructure and projects in countries such as Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France and the UK in particular. In parallel, a series of forums were held with Irish stakeholders, including eight Community-Led Housing groups from around the country, to identify and propose solutions to the barriers they are currently facing.

A key outcome of the project is a series of roadmap infographics, which graphically describe the steps to developing a Community-Led Housing project in Ireland, while also highlighting the unresolved roadblocks which groups will face along the way. Additional roadmap infographics articulate the steps to developing a supportive policy and finance infrastructure for CLH, as well as an effective land management strategy which can challenge often rampant land speculation in Ireland.

Policy recommendations

The collaborative and multi-stakeholder process adopted to produce the publication introduced a wide range of Irish governmental, NGO, financial and public sector organisations to the concept of Community-Led Housing, and its benefits. A series of key recommendations for the development of a supportive CLH infrastructure emerged from the process, and can be summarised as follows:


1. Cross-stakeholder agreement as to what constitutes Community-Led Housing in the Irish context.

2. Insertion of a statutory definition of a Community Land Trust in the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019.

Pilot projects

3. That stakeholders, including the Departments of Housing & Finance, the Housing Agency, the Land Development Agency and relevant local authorities collaborate with one or more Irish CLH groups to create a ‘demonstrator’ project, proving the model.

Capacity building

4. A Community-Led Housing Fund to build capacity in this nascent sector.

5. The creation of a support ‘Hub’ for Community-Led Housing in Ireland.

Public land management

6. Government to empower public agencies to adopt policies for sale or allocation by lease of public land for development on the basis of a competitive procedure, according to social value criteria and financial viability.


7. Targeted low-interest loan products, for construction and long-term financing, which can support sustainable development and independent cooperatives.

Impact to date

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, generously provided a foreword to the publication, in which he strongly advocated for Community-Led Housing as a much-needed and holistic approach to sustainable housing. Given the very high regard in which Ireland’s President is held, this is a significant endorsement.

More recently, the publication, and the process which created it, have already had one significant impact on Irish policy. Following lobbying by SOA and other stakeholders involved in the project, both Community-Led Housing and Community Land Trusts have recently been acknowledged in Irish legislation for the first time. The new Affordable Housing Act 2021, passed in July 2021, specifically references ‘community-led housing organisations’, housing cooperatives, and ‘community land trusts’ as entities which local authorities can ‘enter into arrangements with’.

While it remains to be seen how this recognition might be reinforced by further policy support and funding, this acknowledgement represents a significant step forward for Community-Led Housing in Ireland.


Lessons from regeneration


The success of Community Land Trusts