This is an overview of our Business Plan:
“The vision for MUCH is that it will be a mutually supportive and sustainable co-housing community for people aged over 50 in a suitable location, ideally in the South Manchester area. The community will consist of around 15 to 20 homes for 25 to 40 people with communal facilities.” MUCH Vision and Values document.
MUCH is a group of individuals in Manchester (currently aged between 60 and 70) who are committed to the idea of living in an intentional community, i.e. “co-housing”, which will provide an inclusive and sustainable environment for older people and support their continuing engagement within the city and local neighbourhoods. Co-housing is not a new concept but it has gained a lot of interest and profile in the UK in recent years, especially from people looking at alternatives to existing commercial and social housing options, including opportunities to develop new and innovative provision, whether inter-generational or focusing on people with common interests such as active ageing. National and local government, together with the cooperative movement, voluntary sector and social housing organisations, have all been encouraging co-housing development, and recent reports provide useful evidence for both the need and the opportunities for co-housing. More information can be found on the UK Cohousing Network website – http://www.cohousing.org.uk/
Members of the MUCH group bring together a wide range of personal and professional skills, as well as the commitment to make co-housing happen in Manchester. We have been looking at options for co-housing in south Manchester, based on site and land values and likely development costs, using advice from professionals working in the field who have been willing to help us for free at this stage. This has enabled us to produce initial indicative costings and to set out a number of options for funding a co-housing development, including members raising the money themselves and having a partnership with a housing provider. These options are considered in the context of achieving a balance between affordability, accountability and control. The existing membership includes people with practical experience of developing projects in the community, including raising finance and project management and delivery, in areas such as community development, social care, economic development, neighbourhood regeneration, housing, education and commercial projects.
The plan also sets out the membership and recruitment strategy for MUCH including expanding the current membership and networking and outreach work to engage with people who may be interested in co-housing both within the Manchester area and beyond.
Our work is being developed in the national context of a growing interest in and commitment to alternative approaches to developing housing provision that can meet the diverse needs of older people in an urban setting like Manchester. Over the past few years there have been a range of reports published focusing on these issues which have helped to inform the approach that MUCH is taking in Manchester. These reports include:
- The Government commissioned report, “Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation – HAPPI” which was subsequently followed up with “HAPPI 2 – Plan for Implementation” in 2012;
- A report by the Co-operative Development Society (2009), “Keeping Control of Our Lives: Mutual retirement housing for older people” which was followed up by a further report as “Findings from a Round Table discussion (held on March 18th 2013) with Housing LIN (Learning and Improvement Network), Co-operative Development Society, Co-operatives UK and the UK Cohousing Network;
- A report by the think-tank IPPR North, “Silver cities: Realising the potential of our growing older population”, Dec. 2014.
Overall the findings and recommendations from these reports provide substantial evidence for the need for alternatives such as co-housing generally and, more specifically, as an option for older people, as well as helping to provide credibility and profile for the work of co-housing groups such as MUCH. This is also informing the market research we are doing to demonstrate the need for older people’s co-housing and the options for developing and living in such housing. We are also aware of co-housing development in other parts of Europe, e.g. Finland, and in North America.In Manchester we are working in the context of the city having clear aims to be an “Age Friendly City” and the ongoing work linked to the Age Friendly Manchester strategy which includes support for co-housing initiatives focusing on older people – http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/200091/older_people/3428/age-friendly_manchester/2
There is also a more general commitment to be supportive of co-housing in the City Council’s Housing Strategy, and, in particular, in the new strategy for “Housing for an Age Friendly Manchester” –
This is enabling MUCH to develop its work with (at least) in principle support from the City Council and to be able to promote co-housing, in general terms, and the MUCH vision, in specific terms, to the City Council and its partners, including local housing and voluntary sector organisations. There are also advantages in being connected with other related work at a local level. In particular links with the universities, which are currently enabling MUCH to have support from a PhD Architecture student at MMU who is focusing on older people’s co-housing and to benefit from access to specialist research centres such as MICRA – the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing – at the University of Manchester. http://www.micra.manchester.ac.uk/
All of the work undertaken so far has been self-funded by the current members of MUCH with some support in-kind from a number of local professionals who have given initial advice free of charge. This has helped MUCH members to develop their proposals to date in ways which take account of other relevant developments in order to ensure that the MUCH proposals are as realistic, practical and achievable as possible.
Development and Finance
MUCH has prepared some initial estimates of development costs based on looking at site and land values across Manchester over the past three years and based on some of the free initial advice that we have had from professionals working in the field. For us at present, there are two main options for securing the finance to build a co-housing development:
- Members raise the money themselves;
- MUCH secures a partnership with a housing provider.
The key issue, drawn from experiences of other UK co-housing projects, is the balance between affordability, accountability and control. MUCH is committed to ensure accessibility to co-housing and, as part of this, is in discussion with a number of social housing providers to see if it would be possible to ensure that a number of units (at least 3) would be available to rent. Initial cost estimates suggest that apartments would cost between £150,000 (60 sq.m.) and £240,000 (95 sq.m.).
Experience from other co-housing projects is that, where the majority of the units are being built for people to buy, members would need to access some capital before completion. In the Lancaster Co-Housing project, for example, members had to provide a deposit of £30,000, and 75% of the units had to be pre-sold as a condition of the funding they had obtained. It is clear that the amount involved will vary depending on the options chosen for funding the project but it is important that potential members are aware of this.
Options for funding a co-housing development include:
- Arranging a loan and/or mortgage for the overall project from a funding provider sympathetic to the idea of co-housing, of which there are a number;
- Members raising some or all of the funding required through releasing equity in their existing properties;
- Developing a partnership with a housing provider to develop a mix of build for sale and build to rent;
- Finding ways to mix and match the above options to suit individual members.
At this stage MUCH is open to considering all possible options and further work will be done on evaluating these. Whichever option is agreed it is clear that members will need to make a significant financial contribution in order to demonstrate their commitment and to secure a unit. As part of this members will need to undergo financial scrutiny on a mutually agreed basis – see Becoming A Member
Membership and recruitment
MUCH is currently a company limited by guarantee, i.e. a not for profit company, and we have looked at a range of options for future development, including Industrial & Provident Society (IPS – traditional co-op model), community cooperative and Community Interest Company (CIC). All of these different models have advantages and disadvantages, including ‘asset lock’ restrictions on some of them, e.g. on the CIC model. No final decisions have yet been made on this and it is anticipated that as MUCH membership expands this will be an important priority to discuss and agree upon.
MUCH membership involves:
- Commitment to the Vision and Values of MUCH – see MUCH Vision and Values document
- Actively contributing to the work of MUCH, with the expectation of spending approximately 2 hours per week (this work includes progressing the priorities agreed at the General Meeting, including involvement in agreed working groups, taking on the legal responsibilities of being a director and personal learning and development to contribute to the project);
- Making a financial contribution to the running of MUCH, as agreed by the General Meeting (this is currently £100 per person and is non-returnable);
- Contributing to making decisions by consensus at the General Meetings;
- Supporting new members who will be expected to take part in training in consensus decision making.
MUCH intends to recruit members through the widest possible range of networking and outreach work, including:
- Participating in local networking through existing networks such as Age Friendly Manchester to ensure that both organisations and individuals are aware of MUCH, what it is doing and how to join;
- Links with the UK Cohousing Network and other co-housing groups across the country as one source of membership could be people wishing to move to Manchester;
- By having a MUCH website (this site)
- By promoting co-housing generally, and MUCH specifically, with MUCH members making themselves available to speak to groups and to meetings and events.