Community-led development in the Heart of Hastings

Just along the coast, Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust are doing exciting things in community-led housing and land development. Some of the BHCLT staff team and Directors visited the CLT on Wednesday 28 November to have a look at what they’re up to and share our experiences with each other.

In the foyer of Rock House

As a coastal community, Hastings has some similarities to Brighton & Hove but it’s on the brink of a wave of gentrification that we have already experienced and is about to become somewhere where house prices outstrip wages.

We met Jess, Shelley, Sam, and James from the Heart of Hastings team at Rock House, a building which James told us is the centre of a ‘co-operative ecosystem’. Rock House is in the White Rock area of Hastings – where much of Heart of Hastings’ work is focused. It is one of the town’s poorest neighbourhoods but is changing rapidly.

There are several organisations behind Rock House

Rock House has taken a previously underused building and transformed its nine floors to living space, work space and a community hub. It is owned by White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures – a joint venture between three social enterprise organisations: Meanwhile Space CIC, Jericho Road Solutions and Power to Change.

Rock House was part of the inspiration for setting up the Heart of Hastings as a CLT. It was also a response to the fears of gentrification in the White Rock area – to use collective social investment to buy underused or disused properties, renovate them using local tradespeople, and to then rent them out at rates capped to reflect local incomes, keeping them affordable for future generations.

Heart of Hastings’ first main project focuses on community-led regeneration in the Ore Valley, transforming a 40 year derelict industrial site into a thriving, community-owned, permanently affordable eco-village. Using their innovative Bottom Up Development (BUD) approach they aim to deliver 77 homes, up to 100 jobs and lasting regeneration with wider benefits for the whole town.

Just down the road from Rock House we saw 39 Cambridge Road, the Heart of Hastings’ first town centre property. Originally built as housing nearly 200 years ago, it has been an insurance broker since around 1840. Heart of Hastings are returning it to its original use as housing and locking in affordability forever.

Inside 12 Claremont

Heart of Hastings use innovative ways to select people for their housing. Firstly, it’s based on need, local connection and ability to pay but they are also looking for people who are enthusiastic about co-operation. They are always swamped with applications and use a group selection exercise to decide who the tenants will be.

Another Heart of Hastings project we visited was 12 Claremont, a five storey building on which they are working in partnership with Project Art Works, an artist led organisation working with children, young people and adults who have complex support needs. The building will house a gallery, community space, support and advice centre, affordable and wheelchair accessible meeting space and artist studio and living space.

It was a very useful trip for BHCLT and both CLTs learned a lot from each other about the way we work and our different experiences. Both of us have high levels of private rented accommodation in some areas which make them vulnerable to gentrification. We are both urban, seaside areas and both CLTs employ qualified community organiser which means that we take some similar approaches in how we work with people. We’re looking forward to keeping in touch and ultimately a future where our urban, coastal areas are places where a diverse range of people can afford to live and thrive.

Check out this video on the Heart of Hastings by Power to Change

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