Knowle West’s We Can Make Homes project named as one of UK’s 50 New Radicals 2018

A Knowle West citizen-led housing project looking to create over 300 affordable homes in the area has just been named as one of the UK’s 50 New Radicals for this year.

We Can Make led by Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) in partnership with Bristol architects White Design was picked for the Nesta/Observer award as one of 50 ‘social innovators’  making a difference across the country.

Actor Michael Sheene who was also a judge announced the award winners yesterday (16 September).

We Can Make was set up in 2017 as an answer to the current housing crisis – at a time when people can expect to pay around 7.6 times their annual earnings on buying a home in England and Wales.

The project has brought local residents in to work with policy makers, industry professionals and academics as well as architects and artists to help solve the issue.

Dubbed “a back garden revolution” – the idea is to create affordable one and two bedroom homes on mico sites across Knowle West – including large gardens, spaces between housing and on the corners of streets.

The project’s first test home next to Filwood Community Centre recently celebrated a year of opening. It is constructed from sustainable materials – including walls of straw bales – using local labour.

The first We can Make home next to Filwood Community Centre which took just 12 weeks to construct. Picture Hywel George.
The interior of the We can Make home. Picture Ibolya Feher.

So far around 100 people, including the Mayor of Bristol have spent the night in the one bedroom home to try it out. And the day the results were announced over 300 people came to visit as part of Bristol Open Doors day.

We can Make  has just received funding from The Power to Change and the Nationwide Foundation to develop the approach for Knowle West as a pilot neighbourhood through 2018/19. It is then hoped to roll this out in other communities across the UK.

Melissa Mean from KWMC who is leading the project with Craig White from White Design said: “We are delighted We can Make has been named as one of the Observer and Nesta  2018 New Radicals.

“We are a radical new way to deliver community-led, people powered affordable housing at point of need – and it is great to have the recognition.  Thanks to the Nationwide Foundation and Power to Change for their support…”

The project has developed through workshops with local people and will now be continuing to create designs with those interested.

Craig White said: “…We’ve been working with people in housing need …and there are 86 families that have expressed interest…

“… You are twice as likely to be refused planning permission in Knowle West than Clifton – although Clifton is more dense and protected. We can Make can do something to help them do the planning applications… so statistically Clifton and Knowle West become more equal…”

John Bennett (54) who runs A Ride in the Park cycle group is one of the residents who hopes to benefit from the scheme.

He said: “At the moment I’m living in a van so I won’t be downsizing. At my age I won’t be able to get a mortgage so this would be a really good alternative.  It’s fantastic – it’ s definity more than enough space for one person… I think it’s the next step up from containers a bit more permanent and secure…”

Resident John Bennett (left) at the recent event celebrating the first year of the We can Make home in Filwood with architect Craig White. 

For more information about the project visit www.wecanmake.org