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Government considers housing co-ops for ex-service personnel

The government may consider introducing community-led housing co-ops for veterans of the armed forces, it has been revealed.

Earlier this week homeless minister Heather Wheeler expressed interest in the move, which would see dedicated communities created for veterans to prevent them from becoming homeless.

The idea comes as the government are paying extra attention to ex-service personnel, one month after it announced a £1m fund to help homeless veterans.

The funding boost, announced by communities secretary James Brokenshire, will be used to direct veterans – who are vulnerable to difficulties after leaving the armed forces – to specialist services such as housing advice and mental health support.

The government had already agreed to fast-track ex-service personnel for social housing, which usually requires applicants to be resident in an area for a certain period.

‘We have already agreed some money for ports down on the south coast, where there is a predominance of naval people, who have come together to build a number of units as one group, said Wheeler about veterans’ housing co-ops. ‘I think this idea has legs – if not sea legs, then Army legs.’

Dedicated communities for ex-service personnel are common in the United States but are currently less common in the UK.

However, some projects of this kind are underway, such as one by Wilton Community Land Trust which is building 44 new homes for veterans on a former Ministry of Defence site near Salisbury.

Wheeler made the revelation as fellow MP Gareth Thomas asked her about the possibility of housing co-ops for veterans during MHCLG questions earlier this week.

‘In the United States, many former armed services personnel are housed in dedicated veterans communities run as housing co-operatives, giving them control over the cost of the housing provided to them and enabling them to live their lives in the way they want to,’ Thomas asked the minister.

‘Will the minister undertake to look at the potential for using housing co-operatives to house armed forces personnel here in the UK?’

The government’s consideration of the idea has been welcomed by community-led housing advocates who are looking to diversify the current housing market.

The Community Led Homes programme, a partnership of four housing charities, said the idea could be ‘life-changing’ to veterans in giving them control over their own communities.

Samantha Jones, head of the Community Led Homes programme, said: ‘We welcome working with government to explore this further and helping more ex-service people to steer the delivery of high-quality homes and create new cohesive communities that work for them.’

The government has already committed to building more community-led homes after it finally launched its £163m community housing fund last year.

Earlier this year, the government committed an additional £6m to launch the Community Led Homes programme, which aims to help communities across the country build homes in their areas.

The programme seeks to provide local people funding, training and advice to build their own community-led housing developments.

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