Understanding the local context and prioritising local people’s needs by creating a community hub and affordable housing delivered solid financial returns to investors.

Pioneering development team Re:Shape is addressing growing demand for single occupancy accommodation and problems of financial insecurity and loneliness through a new co-living development in South London. It commissioned Human City to assess local needs and consider elements of its offering that would lead to positive social, economic and environmental outcomes.

The problem

The growth in the number of one-person households is an integral, if neglected, aspect of urban change with important consequences for the economic and social life of urban areas, as well as significant planning implications. But as numbers rise, those living alone report feeling less financially secure, less happy and more anxious than those living with others. 

Re:Shape needed to understand the depths of the problem in South London and establish how it could prioritise the needs of local people through a community hub and affordable housing whilst delivering financial returns to investors.

The considerations

A needs assessment is typically a systematic process that establishes current and future cultural and well-being needs. Re:Shape wanted to develop a new type of needs assessment that also identified local stakeholders and future strategic partnerships. 

We helped them do this by reviewing local authority policy ambitions, exploring local and user needs and gaps, and analysing overlap with business. We will now develop a needs assessment, focused on three principles:

  • Futures: Global shifts matter. They are set to influence financial and social outcomes significantly in the decade ahead. Our analysis of human behaviour and transformations across society, technology, economics, politics and the environment helps future-proof assets and services.
  • Local needs: A local needs assessment highlights the 'big picture' – the inequalities some local people face, the groups with poor outcomes or whose needs have been overlooked. We use this to develop strategies to deliver lasting social value – and a stronger, more resilient neighbourhood.
  • Value exchange: We assess the relationships between organisations and the different dynamics at play, enabling the production of public goods for a common purpose. We help define local stakeholder roles and understand the relationship between them, revealing the partnerships needed to deliver financial and social value.

The implementation

We analysed publicly available data to articulate how the scheme would enhance local people’s quality of life and contribute towards ‘mixed and inclusive neighbourhoods’. We also conducted a survey of emerging post-Covid trends (based on a late-2020 Human City analysis of national post-Covid trends). The survey gave insight into changing behaviours and attitudes towards shared space, and new priorities relating to health and well-being.

The benefits

We delivered value for money against a tight budget and a robust account of how places can be designed to contribute to sustainable futures post-Covid. This provided a strong case for single occupancy accommodation, demonstrating demand for the co-living product and addressing interconnections between related pieces of work, including: (i) a community audit (ii) a statement of community involvement and (iii) a social value framework.

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