All posts by Sian Richards

MUCH Open Meetings over Zoom

In December 2020 and January 2021 MUCH held two online open meetings for people who had contacted us to get more information about membership of our cohousing project.
The meetings were intended to help people find out:

  • what cohousing really means
  • where we are up to
  • more about joining
  • how to keep in touch for the future

They also offered an opportunity to:

  • meet, or re-meet, some MUCH members
  • meet other prospective members
  • ask questions about anything
  • help people decide whether MUCH is for them

Thus, the purpose of the sessions was to update participants on our current progress with design, sites, and finance, to catch up with what is going on in our lives, to share and answer questions and to offer clarification on our developing partnership and business models.

At the moment there is a lot of interest in co-housing and its values from people who would like to rent or share the ownership of their homes within the proposed project.

Many older people, especially older women, find themselves on low incomes as they age. They may also not have a home to sell in order to become a leaseholder within a co-housing company such as MUCH.  We regularly receive enquiries from prospective renters.

Unfortunately, government housing policy is currently skewed towards housebuilding and high value sales rather than towards housing supply for low income and vulnerable older adults.

Some housing associations/registered housing providers (RHPs) are of necessity driven by market forces and may find it difficult if not impossible to secure funding with which to underwrite social rental. Market rental is an option though this can be expensive.

In this context, MUCH decided to write to participants with the following explanation:

“As you consider your next steps, we want to clarify our ability to provide rented or part ownership properties in our development. As we said in the meeting this is an ambition for MUCH. However, it is unclear whether we will be able to deliver this.

As you will be aware, housing is becoming more expensive and we will need to find the capital to build any apartments which will then be owned by a landlord, or part owned. We are working with a Housing Association to develop the project, but they have made no commitment to fund the development of rented or shared ownership units. We have so far been unable to identify any other funders for these models of ownership or tenancy. We will continue to pursue these models as we feel that they would allow us to develop a balanced community, and meet housing needs that owner occupation does not meet.

If you would need to rent or part-own, you should take this into consideration in deciding your next steps. If you want to support the development in the light of the information above, please let us know.”

As a result, MUCH has a vision to uphold and a determination to move towards it, but there are still significant obstacles in our way.

We were pleased with the level of debate and enquiry from the open meetings. Each participant who chose to remain engaged with MUCH was allocated a personal “buddy” with whom to stay in touch.

We will hold more Open Meetings on a regular basis throughout 2021.

If you would like to receive an invitation contact us at muchmanchester@gmail.com

Design Council: A public vision for the home of 2030

A Public Vision for the Home of 2030

Two members of MUCH took part in a half day workshop, in Manchester, as part of the Design Council’s project ‘A public vision for the home of 2030’.  A report on the project has recently been published.

The participants at the Manchester workshop came from a variety of backgrounds, including architects, planners, academics, other housing professionals as well as individuals involved with community led housing.

The report identified 6 priorities for creating good homes.

  1. Being fit for purpose
  2. Giving people agency
  3. Addressing the climate crisis
  4. Connecting people and their communities
  5. Meeting the needs of every life stage
  6. Representing something different

These feature to a greater or lesser degree in many types of community led housing, and not surprisingly confirm that mainstream housing development often does little to provide what people actually want.

During the workshop we worked in groups, and it was interesting that only one group came up with ideas for a single home, while all the other groups recognised that the local neighbourhood or community was as important as the individual home.

Sian

July 2020

Virtual working

Despite some worries about having to get to grips with new (to all of us) technology, I’m pleased to say MUCH are having regular practice sessions, ironing out our various connection glitches, learning to signal that we want to speak, mute ourselves when we’re not speaking and hoping that our next proper General Meeting will do much better than 2% actual business!

Credit to Sarah Woodard for this chart that seems to have become our new worklives!

End of the year

As we look back on 2019 and look forward to 2020, it’s good to remind ourselves of what MUCH have achieved in the last 12 months.

We signed a partnership agreement with Great Places, our Housing Association development partners.

Paddock Johnson Partnership have been selected as our architects and we had an initial design workshop with them to explore and expand on our Design Criteria.

Florence Collier of humblebee.eco came to talk to us about building to the Passivhaus standard.

We’re updating our Mem&Arts, now with help from solicitors who specialise in community led housing.

A Consensus Decision Making workshop provided a refresher and spurred us on to work harder on making our decision making processes both more effective and more efficient.

We’ve met with councillors, and council officers, attended GMCA Co-operative and Community Controlled Housing Project meetings and GM Housing Futures events.

Several prospective members have met with us for coffee, some have joined us for a shared meal and some have attended one or more MUCH monthly meetings.

We’ve visited OWCH in London, the first CoHousing scheme for the over 50s completed in the UK. We’ve visited other CoHousing schemes both home and abroad. We’re talking to another South Manchester CoHousing group.

And we’ve looked at more sites. Some are too small or too big. Some are too expensive. Some turned out not to be available for development. Finding the owner is sometimes difficult.  Some are unsuitable for development for other reasons.

So although we still don’t have a site, we have been busy talking to lots of people, and learning, and continuing to lay down the virtual foundations of our CoHousing!

Wishing all our readers a Happy New Year,

Sian (member of MUCH)

 

A nod to CoHousing from Kevin McCloud

I follow a website called House Planning Help, a source of many articles about self build, quite often low energy, sustainable self builds.

In this article, Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs has some advice on new ways of building to address the climate emergency. He even refers to the impact of sharing resources, which of course is something we CoHousing people are very aware of. While we at MUCH may not be planning on sharing a trampoline with our neighbours, we’re definitely intending to share cars, washing machines and gardening tools.

Sian (member of MUCH)

MUCH members get involved in community arts!

ChorltonArtsFestival-logoOne of the things members of MUCH like to do is sing.

Come and see some of the members of MUCH performing with Open Voice choir as part of Chorlton Arts Festival 2019. Our gig is on Saturday 21st September at 7:30 pm, in St Clement’s Church, Edge Ln, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9AE. We’ll be sharing the bill with the fabulous Ordsall Acappella Singers. Free event.

One quarter of the The Mad Donnas is also a MUCH member. The Mad Donnas are sharing the bill with Serina Wain (singer) and Richard Easton (author) at South West Manchester Cricket Club, Ellesmere Rd, Chorlton  M21 0SG  on Monday 23rd September at 7:30 pm. Free event.

There’s lots more happening too – have a look at the Chorlton Arts Festival Programme and start filling in your diaries.

Sian

NEWS – Funding and Partners

We’re very excited to announce that we have finally received a signed contract from Homes England for the Community Housing Fund. This will support the development of the early stages of our project, and help us identify a site, work up our business plan, obtain legal, environmental and sustainability advice and appoint an architect. We raised a glass a while ago when we heard that we had been successful in our bid, but it’s only now that the paperwork has been finalised!


This has meant that we are also now in a position to sign a partnership agreement with Great Places who are one of the largest home building housing associations in the North. We have been building up a strong relationship with Great Places over several years, and they are keen to bring their expertise in housing development to work with us to create housing that will meet our needs.  Signing a partnership agreement with Great Places brings us a step closer to realising our dream. We are clear about what we want, and Great Places are committed to helping us achieve it.

MUCH are continuing to recruit members to join this South Manchester group. If you are interested in joining us, and are, or approaching, fifty or older, then please contact us at muchmanchester@gmail.com to find out more.

Living the dream …………………….…. in Barnet

Six of us went to visit the OWCH site, New Ground, in Barnet on the 1st of May. We were fortunate to be accompanied by 2 partners from Paddock Johnson (our newly selected architects). We arrived and were met by four members of OWCH and Maria Brenton who organizes a lot of their publicity and advice offer as well as a few other interested individuals including a reporter from the Guardian.


It was a great opportunity to see the way the co-housing group have delivered their scheme and find out at firsthand how it is to live there. We were able to visit a number of flats and speak to lots of the women residents. At the end of the afternoon we all came back together and were able to raise any further questions we had over a cup of tea in the common room .

The site is inspirational to visit and, it appears, to live in whether as a tenant or a home owner. The gardens are maturing and the build is well designed to sit on the boundaries of the land offering every flat views onto the main gardens and creating a variety of smaller garden nooks and crannies where the laundry, drying area, parking and other communal amenities are located. Although all of the flat units are built to one of three standard designs there is no feel of being in a housing block or institutionalized setting. All the flats have balconies over or direct access to the main gardens.

We were interested to hear that OWCH, despite its best endeavours, felt very limited in its ability to influence build decisions as the programme rolled out. However the individual flats are beautiful, welcoming, bright, well heated (hot and cold) and even the smallest felt spacious. Three years after taking ownership, each flat now displays the individual style and preferences of each member of OWCH that lives there. It was enticing to see how people had made their homes so unique within the basic design.

There were many architectural aspects of the building which caught our imagination and that we have taken away to discuss further and indeed we had an interesting initial debrief with our architects at a wonderful nearby tea room before we all set off for home. In particular, over and above the need to have a comfortable individual living space, we noted the proximity of a very good range of local amenities, the challenges of being private and secure whilst open to engaging with the local community, the specific challenges to maximize use of shared spaces throughout the building, the importance of creating spaces which act as a natural enabler to promote friendship, combat loneliness and isolation and the need to offer a wide a range of strategies to support predictable ageing requirements from the start.

What was abundantly clear was the pride and affection which the residents of New Ground have for their home and the way in which, despite the challenges they have already met and continue to address, they feel that living as part of an older persons’ cohousing community enhances the quality of their lives.

Anne

What we talked about in our last monthly meeting

Our March meeting was an all-dayer, and all MUCH members were there. Hurray!

We covered a lot of ground, with discussions that we often don’t have time for in a short meeting.

As usual, we started with a quick catchup of how we were all feeling – we think it’s helpful to understand that people’s responses to discussions and decisions may be affected by their current sense of wellbeing or of those they are close to.

Over the years the information on our website has become a bit out of date, so we’ve decided to address this by tackling any inconsistencies on the website and by pulling together a number of documents to which we can direct potential members. You might already know a great deal about CoHousing, but if not we can point you in the direction of some good resources that describe the principles of CoHousing. We’ll also include a short description of the joining process – how you can get to know us and how we can get to know you; the kinds of places we would like to build our community; what it might physically look like; and some of the things that are important to us in the way we live in our community.

Next we began an exercise looking at how we think our lives and priorities might change over the next 5, 10, 20 years, trying to understand how the importance of our location in the wider community might change. It is likely that moving into our intentional community will mean all the group moving away from friends and local networks and coming to terms with this fact is a necessary step in our journey together, and will be important when we make the decision to bid for a site.

The other main business of the day took place after a delicious shared lunch. This is nearly always a surprisingly varied feast, and this time was no exception.

Our vision and values mention living sustainably, but we agreed it was time to tease out what aspects were important to us. Things to be considered include social sustainability, and this is what CoHousing is all about. Financial sustainability is also well understood – we have to be able to afford to build the homes we want and then to maintain them and pay for running costs in the decades to come. We also need to consider the carbon footprint of our buildings, the care of our immediate environment, and making sure our homes are resilient to a changing climate – able to cope with increasing temperature ranges, floods, droughts and storms. Designing homes that can be adapted as we grow older is particularly important to us as a group, as is the flexibility to accommodate changes in technology.  The discussion will no doubt continue…
Sian