New grants for housing related research projects
Fabiana Bettini and Sue Bright have each been awarded funds from the John Fell Fund to work on different projects related to housing.
Fabiana's project 'Exploring the collective in multi-owned housing' is an empirical study of how people living in sites in which there is 'multi-owned housing' think about property ownership. More than 2 million people live in flats which are owned on long leases, with shared facilities, such as hallways, gardens, stairwells etc. A growing number of cohousing sites are also being developed, that is, intentional communities, created and run by their residents, also usually owned as leases. Cohousing is designed to include communal spaces, and can even include expectations of eating together. In particular we seek to understand what it means to those living in these sites to own part within a whole', to explore attitudes towards private space and community, and to see whether there are particular points in time in which communities come together or particular management arrangements that support the idea of community.
The study will also look at how these sites are managed, and whether/how individual owners do, and wish to, participate in the governance and management of the site. Although multi-owned housing forms a substantial, and increasing, proportion of our housing stock little is known about how the 'collective' works and this is a largely neglected area within scholarship on property theory.
Sue Bright's project 'Understanding fleecehold and the leasehold scandal' looks at the terms of leasehold and freehold contracts and will form the basis of a larger research project. More than 1.2 million houses are owned in England on a leasehold basis; other houses that are 'owned' (as against rented) are held on a freehold basis. Since the formation of a Facebook Community, the National Leasehold Campaign, in January 2017 leasehold has been described as the 'PPI of the house building industry' and 'feudal'. There have been claims that both leasehold and freeholds may contain 'toxic' terms, and the phrases 'leasehold scandal' and 'fleecehold' are bandied around in social media. In December 2017, the UK Government announced its intention to reform leasehold and to review the use of an alternative form of home owning called 'commonhold'. This research uses legal analysis and public data to understand what onerous terms are found in fleeceholds and unfair leases, and the particular legal forms that are used to support these problematic practices.
The research will also form the basis of a larger research project that will explore what ordinary people think about 'owning a home' as well as analysing social media to explore how online forums contribute to the understanding of complex legal ideas, as well as providing insight to the strategic use of social media for policy reform.