Incentive to downsize?

If you are ready to downsize from a substantial property and are keen to put energy and time into nurturing a neighbourly way of life – read on.

As Cohousing Woodside reassesses and regroups, it is clear that the prices for Woodside Grove reflect the market values Londoners expect of new build dwellings.   There’s no doubt that prices are not cheap.  Furthermore Woodside Square is a serviced development so those of us who are downsizing from freehold properties have to re-acquaint ourselves with budgeting for ground rent and service charges.

Developer's CGI aerial-view of Woodside Grove
Developer’s CGI aerial-view of Woodside Grove

 

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Can we or can’t we?

a report by Maria Brenton

January 16 and 17 saw the opening of the Woodside Square show flat for Cohousing Woodside members to meet sales staff by appointment.   We have received prices for our 30 units  but are not able to publicise them on this website until the end of January when the sales launch proper commences.

Suffice it to say, prices are high, based on Savills’ market assessment for Muswell Hill.   We are currently still waiting for Hanover to tell us what their service charges will be.

Our numbers have decreased by six households since then, as members whose budgets are less elastic departed reluctantly and sadly.     We shall miss them and feel aggrieved that they have put so much into our cohousing project only to be priced out of it.    Those of us who remain are seeking out new recruits to the group who are able to afford these properties and who are keen to put effort and energy into the group.

The developer's CGI perspective of Woodside Grove
The developer’s CGI perspective of Woodside Grove

We regret very much the impact on Cohousing Woodside of being kept waiting for several years before being told the prices.   Cohousing accrues its own priceless value in slowly building trust and familiarity between individual members as a basis for a well-functioning community of neighbours.   Hammering out shared values and aspirations  is a rich investment, though sadly not one that general developers’ profit motive respects.

Any one who comes to our next meeting, on February 21, will for sure receive up to date information on which to judge the affordability of our scheme in Woodside Grove.   The added bonus of a group of people who have already set out to build a sense of community where neighbours know each other, look out for each other and share some activities, is beyond any market value.   We are looking for people who care about how they live as they grow old in this day and age and want to contribute actively to Cohousing Woodside.

‘Rethinking the way we live – Cohousing’

A report by Maria Brenton

Just before Christmas, your roving Londoner spoke at a Museum of Architecture event held at the Building Design Centre for an invited audience of 150 architects, town planners, housing association people and others.   Its theme ‘Rethinking the way we live’ was dear to a Woodsider’s heart and absolutely something the audience needed to hear about.  The other speakers besides me were Stephen Hill, Chair of the UK Cohousing Network, Meredith Bowles from Mole Architects and David Saxby from Project00, and our convenor was Irena Bauman, an architect and Sheffield University’s professor of Sustainable Urbanism.

Stephen did some broad scene painting with an account of ‘Cohousing for everyone’, its focus on collaborative living and sustainability, and progress in the UK so far – did you know there has been a 25% increase in searches on Zoopla for cohousing?   The audience heard about the Network’s 3 year development plan, its action research programme with partners and its new focus on retrofit cohousing, particularly for older age-groups.   Everyone laughed when he quoted ‘a housing association chief executive (salary over £200k) describing cohousers as “completely pre-occupied with what they want!”

Stephen went on to outline the reasons why cohousing is difficult to achieve in that factors like scarcity of access to land, lack of capital and structure in the ’self-build’ sector and the power of corporate interests are all compounded by political reserve in the UK about people doing things for themselves.

‘The adaptation of regulatory systems to support building cohousing’ was the subject of Meredith’s input.  The new Planning Framework of 2012 requires a wide choice of high quality homes planned for a mix of housing needs, including for people wishing to build their own homes.   Legislation coming in in 2016 will make it a duty on Local Planning Authorities to grant suitable ‘development permission’ for serviced plots of land to meet the demand for self-build and custom-build in their area.   This and the work of ‘vanguard authorities’ will, it is hoped, provide a stimulus for and open up possibilities for more cohousing.

David talked about how to develop collaborative/participative/shared tools to lower the threshold to user-led housing, citing various of Project 00’s digital platform projects and the scale of community they have helped build, how they make the global local, etc.

'Rethinking the way we live' event

I finished up at the micro-level with a visual account of the OWCH (Older Women’s Cohousing) project due to complete in March this year, and how their participation in the design of their building helped give them a sense of ownership of the project.   Far more important than bricks and mortar, however, I stressed, is consciously building a cohesive group that works collaboratively – a sense of community does not just happen on its own.

The event finished with a lively debate between the speakers and the audience facilitated by Irena around key questions we directed at them – such as ‘Do we need a new Planning Class for Community Housing? or ‘Can we transform the developer-end user relationship and how?’