WeCanMake X Neath Port Talbot: Learning from a Bristol estate

3 May 2024

Just talking about examples of community-led housing projects isn’t enough. So, a few weeks ago, the Communities Creating Homes team co-organised a visit with Tai Tarian to bring together housing professionals, local politicians, and community members from the Neath & Port Talbot area, to learn from the excellent work of WeCanMake in Bristol’s Knowle West estate.  

WeCanMake is a Community Land Trust (CLT), that have plans “to grow the spaces, tools and capacities to collectively imagine and actively anticipate better community-led ways to do housing”. The CLT has grown out of Bristol’s housing crisis, which sees more than 19,000 households on the social housing waiting list, whilst private rents and house prices continue to spiral out of control. In what might seem like a challenging context for those seeking to put down roots in the city, WeCanMake has sprouted out of the earth in Knowle West with the aim to build on the neighbourhood’s existing assets and strengths and deliver for the people who call it home.  

The day began with an introduction to WeCanMake’s model of building homes and community by Director Melissa Mean. Theirs is a people-led approach that prioritises building trust, which doesn’t shy away from innovation, and is forward thinking in its approach to sustainability. 

A tour of their factory quickly followed, bringing to life the creativity and innovation that goes into WeCanMake’s methods of homebuilding and retrofitting. From a window made from an Ash tree infected with the now prevalent disease effecting the species ‘Ash die back’, to sustainable insulation, and coming face to face with the MMC machine that cut the wood panel by panel for their existing homes, it truly was a site of motivation and hope for those of us looking for alternative ways of housing our communities.

Ending the day with a visit to one of their newly-built homes, we were all made welcome by residents Toni and her daughter. The CLT’s residents are involved every step of the design and build, leading to visible pride in their home and wider community. A stone’s throw from their existing homes, WeCanMake has recently taken on empty plot of land, which they accessed via the council’s unique land disposal policy accessible only to community-led housing groups. Designs are emerging for a three story building that combines residential and community space. Following their principles of being responsive and resident-led, a series of community events will first take place onsite to identify the communities’ needs and ambitions for the building, what it might look like and how it will function to meet the lives of the people who will live in them.  

Keep a close eye on Neath & Port Talbot to see some inspired community-led housing projects getting off the ground! 

If you’re a housing organisation, council or community-led housing group and are similarly interested in visiting and learning from others – get in touch for our support!