With global warming being blamed for what appear to be more episodes of extreme weather, and an increasing focus on how our lifestyles are damaging the environment, more people are starting to agree that we must change the way we live in order to slow down climate change, and look after the environment .
We hear the phrases ‘living sustainably’, ”eco homes’, ‘zero-carbon cities’, ‘the 2050 emission reduction target’ but what do they mean?
Most people acknowledge that ‘living sustainably’ means different things to different people. For some it’s about what they eat and where they buy their food. For others it’s about how they travel, both in their day to day lives, and for leisure. Then there’s energy, using less, and making sure as much as possible is from renewable surces. These are all lifestyle choices that we can make in a stepwise fashion.
According to Wikipedia, “a zero-carbon city runs entirely on renewable energy; it has no carbon footprint and will in this respect not cause harm to the planet.”
From www.gov.uk “The UK is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.”
When building new homes, the opportunity for the greatest impact is during the design stage. “An Eco-house (or eco-home) is an environmentally low-impact home designed and built using materials and technology that reduces its carbon footprint and lowers its energy needs.”
It’s uncertain where this phrase originated, but it’s widely quoted. But by how much can a home’s carbon footprint really be reduced?
It’s been a while since we last posted anything on the website, but you can be sure that the group is still active!
We’ve continued to be very busy – looking at potential sites, visiting and talking to other cohousing groups, talking to policy makers, housing professionals and developers, recruiting new members and generally working hard on bringing this project to life.
Community-led housing is very much in the news these days. This includes many different types of development:
- Community Land Trusts are a form of community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets. CLTs act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area, not just for now but for every future occupier.
- Co-operative and mutual housing schemes are all different, but part of what makes them successful is their ability to enable local people to develop housing in the way that is right for them. A successful co-operative and mutual housing scheme usually has a community membership made up of the residents. The housing organisation is democratically controlled by the community membership.
- Cohousing communities are intentional communities, set up and managed by the residents. Each household has a self-contained home as well as sharing some community space. Residents come together to manage their community, share activities, and regularly eat together. The community can be inter-generational, or specifically cater for people who are older or for women or other groups. The community is governed in a non hierarchical way, often using consensus decision making. Cohousing groups often host wider community activities in the shared space and common house.
MUCH members have been clarifying what Cohousing is to councillors and housing professionals, and how it differs from Co-operative housing, and have also indicated the benefits that Cohousing schemes for older people in particular can bring to the city. These are described in Maria Brenton’s paper Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK?
In May two of our members were travelling around Seattle and Washington State in America and found out that they were going to be there at the same time at the US National Cohousing Open House Day. They were able to go to visit three different projects, one, Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing, is an inter-generational project in an inner city neighbourhood of Seattle, another, the Songaia Cohousing Community, is a cluster of intergenerational intentional communities just north of Seattle in Bothell WA. The third is a senior cohousing project in Port Townsend across the Puget Sound from Seattle, called Quimper Village, probably the nearest in inspiration and implementation to what we are trying to do here in Manchester. As well as being made really welcome by everyone visited the experiences of those who had realised the three projects were all felt to be directly relevant in terms of learning from what they had all achieved so far. This builds upon what other MUCH members had already learned from projects that members had visited in Helsinki, Copenhagen and Berlin. We are aiming to create a new section of the website over this summer which will provide links to all of these projects together with resources which will be useful for members and potential members alike.
MUCH members have been very busy over the past few months, looking at potential sites, meeting potential new members and carrying on to develop our policies and practice to help make our cohousing project a reality. Members have also been looking at what is happening in other parts of the UK and Europe, including visiting projects in Lancaster, Leeds and Sheffield and in Copenhagen and Berlin. We are also talking to a local housing association, which has a reputation for innovation, about the possibility of developing a partnership for our project. In the future we are making a commitment to provide updates on the website each month (as a minimum). So please look out for further news in May.