The project was commissioned by the Liverpool Biennial in 2010 and was a response to the controversial Housing Market Renewal (HMR) initiative, which was started in 2002 by the Blair-led Labor Government. The intention of the scheme was to address falling house prices, primarily in northern England, and reconnect them with regional markets by applying the principles of supply and demand. They believed by demolishing high density, victorian terraced housing and rebuilding smaller modern homes this would reduce supply, increase demand and prices would rise and kickstart the local economy. The scheme ripped apart communities by forcefully evicting people from their houses through compulsory purchases orders. In 2011 the coalition government ended the funding, and large areas have been left boarded up, waiting for the ‘regeneration’ that never came.
The Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswijk collaborated with architecture practice URBED (Urbanism, Environment and Design) for the 2Up 2Down project which aimed to address the effects of the HMR scheme. Van Heeswijk believes that artists can be an ‘instrument for the collective reimagining of daily environments’. Her work often results in embedding herself within communities for years at a time to understand and unpick the social, political and architectural issues and promotes the believe that communities can co-curate their own futures.
For two and half years Van Heeswijk worked with residents of the Anfield and Breckfield areas to understand the local issues. In April 2012 the Homebred Community Land Trust was established, taking inspiration from other Community Land Trusts (CLTs) which are nonprofit cooporations that provide affordable spaces that respond to the needs of local communities. During this time architects URBED worked with the local people to re-model a block of empty properties, which included Mitchell’s Bakery and the two terraced houses next door. in June 2012 the Homebaked Community Bakery was incorporated and is now open 6 days a week and provides a place for local people to buy fresh and affordable bakery products. The business is now run by, and for, the community and is a focal point for wider regeneration plans for the area via the Community Land Trust initiative.
Jeanne van Heeswijk also developed a project in the South of Rotterdam to establish a social community of skilled workers. The Agile City post about Freehouse can be found here