“Posh communes’ show the way to love thy neighbour” read a Financial Times headline on Monday, 29 April. “The philosophy behind cohousing lies in a rosy-hued vision of what life in town and village communities used to be like, when supposedly everyone knew their neighbour and helped one another out”, writes Elaine Moore.
This is the kind of lazy journalism the cohousing movement can do without – as one of those interviewed, I did my best to nail the commune angle. However, at least cohousing is getting some attention.
The article goes on to quote a spokesperson for the Ecology Building Society saying it had seen a big growth in enquiries for cohouse financing in the past 18 months. Triodos Bank also said it is working with more than 47 projects in their planning stages. Both the forming West Hampstead group and the mostly developed Lancaster scheme are cited.
The piece refers to Matthew Smith, a lecturer in real estate at Birmingham City University, who believes social media has helped boost the number of cohousing schemes by helping people find like-minded individuals. He concludes with the statement “As long as we remain in these very unsure times, it’s a model that will continue, but I worry that when the market does come back these will be the casualties”. Who knows what this means?
As part of the UK Cohousing Network and a project consultant to the OWCH (Older Women’s Cohousing) group, I get frequent requests for interviews or copy. This last week, I was part of a feature on senior cohousing by Radio Scotland’s religion and ethics programme (1hr 44min in). Also featured was a member of the Vivarium group in Fife, who are working with a housing association and have a site in mind.
In early April, an OWCH member and I appeared on BBC London news, focusing on the site in High Barnet and OWCH plans prior to its (successful) application for planning permission. This TV interest and a BBC radio interview were sparked off by an article in the local press – online and on paper – that we placed with the help of a PR agency. TV and radio picked up this article before we even realized it was online – which just shows how the media feed off each other. Some interesting lessons for Cohousing Woodside here.