After 15 years of dedication and collective effort, Church Grove is a vibrant community-led neighbourhood, that shows what can be achieved when people come together with a shared vision.

The homes were brought to life by the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), a Community Land Trust based in south London. Founded in 2009, RUSS won a bid with Lewisham Council to transform a disused site by the Ravensbourne River. By 2021, the vision took physical form as construction began on a 36-unit apartment block, making it the largest self-build community housing project London has ever seen.

The residents of Church Grove are all local to Lewisham, meeting the project’s affordability criteria. The housing mix is diverse – from socially rented flats for those on the council’s waiting list to sharer flats with rent pegged at ‘London affordable’ rates, alongside flats for sale and shared ownership. This blend ensures that housing remains accessible, reflecting the varied needs of the community.

Adding personal touches

The homes were created with the environment in mind. Air source heat pumps provide hot water and power comes from photovoltaic solar panels, cutting residents’ costs by around 30%.

While a contractor built the main shell of the building, some residents have optied to self-build their apartments during the fit-out stage, earning a discount for their labour. This hands-on approach has not only fostered a sense of ownership but also strengthened community bonds. Now, each home has its own character with unique cladding and flourishing climbing plants.

A community beyond walls

Church Grove isn’t just about housing; it’s about creating a community space. Since 2019, its eco-friendly hub has been a venue for work and events, supporting local projects. RUSS’s School of Community Housing exemplifies its commitment to knowledge-sharing and collaboration. The future holds even more promise with plans for a publicly accessible playground, riverside garden, and communal food-growing areas.

Triodos Bank has been a partner in this journey since 2012, offering advisory work and financial modelling. For Triodos, supporting projects like Church Grove aligns with our mission to finance positive change. By backing community-led, sustainable housing, Triodos helps create more affordable homes and fosters communities that care for people and the planet.

Ensuring lasting affordability

To safeguard the community’s affordability, a resale covenant ensures that homes will rise in value in line with the retail price index, bound to the original building costs. This prevents the fate of Walter’s Way, where homes entered the market and became unaffordable. Church Grove’s model promises a lasting, affordable community for Lewisham residents.

Church Grove is a testament to the power of community, a celebration of sustainable living, and hope for affordable housing in London. It’s proof that when people come together, they can build not just homes, but dreams.