Field trip: Learning from 40 years of Coin Street Community Builders

Field trip to Coin Street

While all the other delegates networked near the buffet at Future of London’s affordable housing conference, one group ventured out to hear from Coin Street Community Builders about how affordable housing fits within a broader approach regeneration and economic development.


From a derelict site to thriving community

Coin Street Community Builders are a social enterprise working in Waterloo and North Southwark. From a derelict site in 1984, they have created a vibrant, diverse, and welcoming place for people to live, work and play.

The site is at the heart of a thriving neighbourhood with co-operative homes, nursery, neighbourhood centre, Bernie Spain Gardens, shops and design studios, galleries, gymnasium and restaurants by the River Thames, London.

The first Coin Street housing co-operative was completed in the area in 1988, introducing a riverside walkway, a park and much needed family housing to the area in just three short years. Despite this, the site lacked commercial use and need to attract funding, explained Iain from Coin Street.

Over the next decade, stakeholders in the area (Shell, Oxo Tower Wharf, Guy’s Hospital and the St Thomas’ Hospital Foundation, to name a new) were brought together to further develop the region’s offer.

Festivals were held to attract commuters and a community, the Spine route was developed, and a second co-op was opened in the Oxo Tower.

In 1999 an extensive community engagement processes reached 825 households to better understand what the area needed. Today there are 12 co-ops in the neighbourhood, 4 of which are on the Coin Street thirteen acre estate.

Empowering communities

Since its inception in 1984, residents and community members of Coin Street have gone through hours of training sessions for guidance on managing co-ops. This is central to Coin Street’s ethos of building human relationships and community work.

The social enterprise has put in the groundwork to ensure the cooperatives succeed by ensuring residents understand how to work as landlords and owners as well as residents.

Community at Coin Street means living and working in the area. Upskilling residents and empowering them has been key to upholding this.

As with any community-led housing, it is vital that those involved are fully invested in what is being created. During design and development processes, architects were dominating choices made. This is why Coin Street decided to move to design competitions to bring in smaller, local architectural practices who are invested in the ethos of the community.

These steps have taken time. But it’s been a labour of love and along the way, Coin Street Builders have managed to build a thriving community through genuinely collaborative processes.

Affordable Housing: Overcoming crisis through collaboration is a cross-sector research and events programme that aims to make practical recommendations.

Contact Anna Odedun, Head of Knowledge, to get involved. Thanks to project sponsors Countryside, Montagu Evans, Pollard Thomas Edwards, Potter Raper and Trowers and Hamlins, and our conference sponsors Altair, Inner Circle Consulting and Big Society Capital.