A PLUG FOR COHOUSING

A report by Maria Brenton

A Guardian Live panel debate at the National Theatre recently brought together politicians, journalists and housing experts to discuss the state of London and the ever growing focus on housing as an investment asset.

Campbell Robb (CEO, Shelter) citing a member of the audience (a member of the Older Women’s Cohousing group) who has set up a small housing co-operative in her community,  said everyone should follow her example. “Work with others in your communities.   Make where you live a better place and make it happen by getting angry about it because if we get angry about it we can make it change.”

David Lammy MP warned that the capital is in danger of creating ‘Paris ghettoes’ with an outer suburb that is increasingly poor, over-crowded and depressed.   Yolande Barnes, Savills’ Director of World Research (who knew?) commented on London’s failure to urbanise the suburbs and ‘build the new London that generation Y want to live in’.

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HAVING A SAY ON ONE’S HOUSING

A report by Maria Brenton

Your roving Londoner recently attended a seminar on Community Led Housing,   organised by the London region of the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (www.housinglin.org.uk) which I was, in a past life, employed by.  The seminar was held at the Design Centre in the Angel Building – a stylish venue.   The main reason I was there was because I and Patrick Devlin (architect at Pollard, Thomas, Edwards – who also worked on the Cohousing Woodside design) were reporting on progress on the OWCH (Older Women’s Cohousing) development in High Barnet.  Patrick took them through the visuals for a building that nearly has its roof on.    I followed my usual themes which are that participating in design helps develop a sense of ownership and togetherness in a cohousing group and, more importantly, that group-building needs to have a higher priority than bricks and mortar.

The theme of the seminar was ‘Design benefits of engagement’, kicked off by a representative the Design Council on efforts to produce a better class of design in housing where people are enabled to feel connected with where they live and able to shape and improve it.   Various schemes for tenant and resident involvement were described.  These aimed to empower and build capacity to counteract the break up of communities through gentrification and pricing people out of their area.

A really interesting presentation from the Central & Cecil Housing Association gave an account of the regeneration of their Dora House, near Lords Cricket ground.   Replacement of 200 bedsits by up-to-date flats is challenge enough, but doing it in meaningful consultation with their elderly occupants is really praise-worthy. Said occupants are now almost all decanted around alternative accommodation in the area but are bussed back at regular intervals to be briefed on how the regeneration process they have helped shape is moving on.   The involvement of these tenants in such practical issues appears to have acted as a catalyst in community development.  They got to meet and know each other better in the course of deliberating on the design and shape of their new building, which promises a better sense of community for those who move back in in 2018.