Image for Glastonbury founder digs deep to build affordable homes

Glastonbury founder digs deep to build affordable homes

Festival founder Michael Eavis has donated Worthy Farm land and cash to build 52 green social homes. It’s just one of many creative grassroots solutions to Britain’s housing crisis

Festival founder Michael Eavis has donated Worthy Farm land and cash to build 52 green social homes. It’s just one of many creative grassroots solutions to Britain’s housing crisis

Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis is swapping canvas for bricks and mortar as part of a grassroots response to a national social housing shortage.

The National Housing Federation’s most recent assessment of housing need in England revealed almost two million children live in unaffordable or unsuitable homes, 4.2 million people are in need of social housing, and that overcrowding affects 3.7 million people.

The crisis struck a chord with festival visionary Eavis who is building on a social housing project he started 25 years ago by gifting land for 20 new social homes.

He began the project in 1995 to provide affordable housing to young people who had been hit by the soaring cost of rural living. He donated building stone from his 900 acres, and subsidised the design of two- and three-bedroom homes with festival takings.

For his latest act, Eavis donated land that lies two miles from the festival site to The Guinness Partnership for a mix of two- to five-bedroom houses, flats and bungalows, equipped with air source heat pumps.

Eavis has also chipped in with £275k towards development costs. The new homes will take the total number he has helped to build to 52. The land donation comes with a caveat: it must be used for social housing in perpetuity.


Festival revenues helped fund the affordable homes. Image: James Genchi

“With rural house prices so often out of reach for local people, this gives villagers, most of whom are working families who live around here, the opportunity to live here for the rest of their lives at a social rent,” Eavis said.

Eavis’ is far from the only community response to housing need in England.

Also in Somerset, not-for-profit community-based social housing provider Shal Housing has secured funding for 50 properties to be added to an existing 750-strong portfolio of affordable-rent and shared-ownership homes. 

It also plans to invest £2m in energy efficiency upgrades by improving insulation, installing solar panels and fitting heat pumps.

People are taking their own agency. We’re making decisions about what we want to happen in our neighbourhood

Meanwhile in Grimsby, local action group East Marsh United (EMU) is raising £500k through a community share issue to buy and renovate 10 derelict homes for social housing.

EMU began five years ago, using the seemingly simple act of street cleaning to restore local pride to a corner of Grimsby that has been hit hard by the decline of its fishing industry.

The group, which now has 100 members, armed themselves with brooms and bin bags, targeting a street a week over the course of two years.

A lack of affordable homes is not just an urban problem, rural regions are also left wanting. Image: Niklas Weiss

From their toil grew a housing association which, working closely with North East Lincolnshire council, has renovated three derelict homes, now occupied by families paying social rent.

“Boarded-up houses are an insult to the streets. They say ‘Nobody cares, there are no stewards here, so come and take over’,” said Billy Dasein, one of 12 EMU directors.

Dasein and co are eager to avoid the short-termism and lack of long-term, strategic planning that has arguably left East Marsh and places like it wanting. He said the group has a 100-year goal to buy and renovate 100 homes.

“You do find yourself asking: ‘Why isn’t the council doing this?’ but ultimately I think this way is much more democratic,” Dasein said. “People are taking their own agency. We’re making community-based decisions about what we want to happen in our neighbourhoods.”

Main image: Kimberley Clay/EG Carter & Co Ltd

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