23 Jan 2023

Levelling up in practice to build fair foundations for all

Our mission at Karbon is to provide people with a strong foundation for life, and for most of our customers, a good, affordable home and excellent support services can do just that.  

However, we know that in some areas place-based challenges can hold communities back. That’s why one of our strategic aims is to help shape strong sustainable places for our communities. 

As anchor institutions with homes in neighbourhoods in need of development across the country and significant spending potential, housing associations can play a central role in levelling up these local areas.

Karbon’s approach to place-shaping

At Karbon we’re focusing our efforts on deep place-based interventions in a small number of areas where we have a large concentration of homes, the ability to have a transformational impact on the economic sustainability and the support of key local partners.

Alongside exploring the data on issues such as employment, people, infrastructure and transport, we’re working with local residents to understand first-hand what it’s like to live in these places and what challenges they face.

A resounding theme we hear time and time again is that opportunities are out of reach. Often, that is employment opportunities in particular.

Place-based employment and skills support

One way in which we’re working to tackle this is through New Start, our innovative paid placement programme which provides career starter roles for people aged 25 and over.

Initially funded by the government through the UK Community Renewal Fund, the programme reimagines how people access employment, giving candidates the opportunity to take on a five-month placement of up to 30 hours a week with ongoing support from an employment advisor and the chance to complete training courses and qualifications.

Our initial programme offered 73 placements across the North of Tyne, and 49 of those went on to secure permanent employment. We’re now offering a further 20 placements in two places where we have a large number of homes and which face multiple challenges – Byker in Newcastle and Stanley in Durham.

Improving neighbourhoods

Another reoccurring theme we hear is about the impact that the declining physical fabric of a place has on the quality of life of those who live there.

In order to help level up a neighbourhood and make changes that will have a lasting and impactful effect, investment plans must address the individual needs of a place.

At one of our largest estates in Byker, we’ve embarked on an extensive neighbourhood improvement plan which includes individual masterplans for 11 neighbourhoods, all shaped and led by local residents.

From waste management improvements to hard and soft landscaping, secure car parking and safe play spaces for families, each plan is designed to address the needs of that neighbourhood, identified by the residents who live there.

This approach to area regeneration enables communities to play a much stronger role in shaping the place in which they live and work, building community pride and confidence through place-based outcomes.

The future of Karbon’s place agenda

At Karbon we believe that everyone deserves a fair chance to realise their potential, regardless of where they live, which is why placeshaping is an important part element of what we do as an organisation.

This month Karbon launched its Fair Foundations report, which outlines our refreshed approach to placeshaping. The report is a blueprint for how we intend to work different in our left behind places, moving away from alleviating the problems communities face and instead focuses on getting to the roots of the issues and making long-lasting changes.

It also includes recommendations for how our peers in the housing sector, our key partners, and other anchor institutions working in communities can join us on the journey and consider their impact in their local area. And it sets out our asks of Government to take a new approach to policy in this area. 

You can find the report on our website at www.karbonhomes.co.uk/reports.

We look forward to sharing ideas and best practice with colleagues in the sector at the Northern Housing Festival in February.

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Written by Charlotte Carpenter

Charlotte Carpenter is executive director growth & business development at Karbon Homes.