As RUSS is setup as a Community Land Trust (CLT), it’s run by members to ensure the long-term protection of community assets. This pioneering plan is London’s largest self-build community housing project, and due to be completed next year.
We spoke to Kareem to understand the importance of creating affordable and sustainable housing ahead of his appearance at our virtual Annual Meeting panel on 22 September 2022.
Why is creating housing opportunities that are affordable and sustainable important to you?
I was born in the house that my mum and dad built, and I watched them make energy-efficient renovations as I grew up. I also lived in a housing cooperative during University, but there were no other contemporary examples of alternative, sustainable housing. It reached a point where my friends couldn’t afford to live in London, so I thought ‘what could we do?’ in response to that.
Whacking up new homes isn’t the answer to the housing problem, I believe in allocating homes before they’re being built, establishing local connection, selling to people who live and work in the borough. When we come to sell, we’re not selling at market value, we’re selling equity at the same price it was bought, plus inflation. These homeowners add value to society in a real way over a long period of time – through careers, growing food, and ultimately building a community from all different levels.
Sustainability is a big thing and for me, it all started with my dad who knew our house was really inefficient. It’s a less glitzy solution but reinsulating homes, saving energy and carbon, and making sure construction is sustainable are really important. We can do the best that we can but ultimately whether or not a building is sustainable is how we are actually living in it – and this is something that really excites me about this project.
Our Annual Meeting theme, Together to Zero, celebrates including everyone in decision-making. Why do you think inclusion is important in achieving sustainability goals?
With all these crises we’re facing, without a community-led aspect I think we’re kind of doomed.
If we want to build this beautiful, sustainable future, we have to talk about it. We need to get really good at describing the world we want to live in and talk about the problems. This is where the artists, the musicians, the storytellers come into it – community comes down to agency and we need to start recognising the power we have in the civil sector and bringing everyone to the table, which is what RUSS has been successful at, but it’s not always easy.
What role do you think financial organisations like Triodos can play in helping drive these actions forward?
Triodos are a fantastic organisation with clear values, they know what they want to fund – they are a critical piece of the puzzle as we need money to achieve things.
If we have to imagine the world of the future we need to think about how we finance that. We need to fund projects that are going to have beneficial legacy for generations to come. When we’re using credit and finance in a positive way it’s truly transformative.
Without Triodos and other funders my idea would have remained just a conversation at a kitchen table… having financial capital is what enabled it to become a real, physical thing that will change my community for the better.