Category Archives: Uncategorized

Transport Diaries and Active Travel

I’ll start off with a little disclaimer. This is a personal story of one MUCH member’s journey towards reducing their carbon footprint through ‘Active Travel’. It might help us shape a future MUCH transport policy, but more importantly it might act as a bit of encouragement to any readers considering making the same lifestyle choices.

Once upon a time when I was a single working mum bringing up two daughters on my own, with ageing parents living 100 miles away and the father of my daughters living 50 miles away in the opposite direction, I used to drive quite a lot.

But family life and personal circumstances changed, at the same time as awareness of climate change grew. My parents died, my daughters grew up and left home, sometimes I cycled to work. I swapped the family sized estate for a small hybrid – plenty big enough to carry me and my camping equipment. I went on holiday to Europe by train a few times. I used the train more in the uk. Of course that is a lot easier for someone like me living in south Manchester – I have lots of transport choices, own a car and a bike and am fit and healthy enough to walk and ride to lots of everyday destinations.

Before I retired in 2020 (just before lockdown) I was only driving about 3000 miles a year. The overheads of owning a car as well as paying train fares meant it was starting to look more economical to sell the car and join the local car club or use traditional car hire.

But then covid struck. And I kept the car as my security blanket. Like many others, I left home as little as possible, and reverted to using my car when I did. Mainly for grocery shopping, and a few brief meetings with more distant friends and family members. I applied for my bus pass, and paid a small amount to extend it to metro and rail journeys within Greater Manchester.

I still have the car, but now it is sitting, neglected, on my drive. I’m back to walking with my shopping trolley to the shops once a week or so. I’ve been discovering I can cycle to places I used to drive to.

This July I kept a travel diary of my journeys. Out of a total of 24, most were made on foot, or by bike. I used my car for a short but distant camping holiday, and went into the city centre by tram once. Before each journey I considered whether I could make it under my own steam (or to use the currently popular term – Active Travel). I’ve discovered I often can if I just plan ahead a bit!

Sian, August 2021

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

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)

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

MUCH update for UK CoHousing February newsletter

Here at Manchester Urban Co-Housing (MUCH) we have had a busy year. We’ve continued to make connections with other cohousing and community-led housing groups, to meet with local authority councillors and officers, and we have renewed our discussions with our partner housing association too. We’re also pleased to announce that we now have a Facebook & Twitter presence @muchmanchester.

Manchester is catching up with other parts of the country in learning about community-led housing and we have attended some events leading up to the launch of the Manchester Community Led Housing Hub. Councillors and housing officers are also keen to support this growing movement and want to see three affordable schemes up and running in 2019. However, although we want to provide some homes for social rent, we’re discussing how we might be able to fit the affordable homes criteria.

Like many other groups, we have applied to Homes England for Community Housing Fund funding and are waiting to hear whether we have been successful. In the meantime we have been able to access some funding from Greater Manchester for a workshop to explore the different legal forms that might be most appropriate for us, and are now customising a set of Mems & Arts for our new company. We have also obtained funding to run a consensus decision making training session since it’s a while since the last consensus training session took place and the newest members haven’t yet received training.

Speaking of members, we’re still looking for more members who share our vision and who are willing to take a full part in making the dream come true. We feel that we’ll be ready to hit the ground running when we find a suitable site, but that is still proving to be a real challenge. We continue to follow up leads, and record our site assessments. We want to be close to the facilities that will allow us to continue to live active lives, or at least close to good public transport.

Sadly so far nothing of the right size, in the right location, that is actually for sale, at the right price has been found. But we’re optimistic that something will turn up soon. Maybe 2019 is the year…

Greater Manchester Community-led Housing Network Launch

Several members of MUCH attended the well attended, and energetic, Greater Manchester Community-led Housing Network Launch, at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester on 8th December 2018.

This was the last in a series of events organised by Housing Futures through 2018, in parallel with research into community led housing in the UK and abroad, to find out how community led housing can hep solve the current housing crisis.

The event was opened by Sophie King of the University of Sheffield Urban Institute, who spoke about her work with community groups in Collyhurst, Manchester.

Richard Goulding summarised the Housing Futures research findings. As a result of the research, Housing Futures have published recommendations for stakeholders, identifying the following benefits:

  • income is kept within community-led organisations and reinvested for community use
  • urban reinvestment can be combined with affordable housing that stops residents being priced out of homes by gentrification
  • successful community-led projects generate positive neighbourhood outcomes for health and social wellbeing, environmental sustainability, and skills and employability
  • community-led housing groups can play a vital role in developing small sites for a lasting and valued legacy, with adequate support for land access from key partners

Paul Dennett, City of Salford Mayor and Greater Manchester Lead for Housing explained that Greater Manchester had lost over 90,000 homes since 1980 due to Right To Buy, while over 80,000 households are now on housing waiting lists. He spoke positively about Housing Future’s recommendations, including the continued development of a Greater Manchester Hub to support community led housing across the city region, which was independent of local government.

Manchester City Council’s Director of Housing, Jon Sawyer, outlined Manchester City Council’s approach, referencing a report on affordable housing (which was subsequently approved on 12th December), which set out a new vision for the provision of affordable housing across the city. Manchester is committed to initially supporting three affordable CLH developments totalling at least 30 homes, on council land, and subsequently unleashing the potential for more CLH, of all tenures, and including age-friendly developments. He emphasised that the social benefits of CLH to local communities outweigh the longer development time and smaller sites involved.

All speakers recognised that CoHousing could make a relatively small but important contribution to community led housing, especially in addressing problems of isolation for older people.

Following the talks, we were invited to take part in one of these sessions:

  • A workshop to plan the structure, role and functions of the new ‘enabling hub’ being established for community-led housing in Greater Manchester. This is now set to be launched in March 2019.
  • An introduction to Community Land Trusts, which can bring land and property into community ownership in order to secure affordable housing for current and future generations. Although CLTs are not a legal form in themselves (like a Company), they are defined in law. Transparency in Governance and accountability is essential from the outset, as is good legal advice on current and proposed changes to laws related to leases and Right To Buy. We discussed some successful examples of CLTs such as St Clements Hospital in East London which has been retrofitted as 23 affordable homes with a proportion of privately owned homes. A very diverse and inclusive project, it was built on a great deal of local community engagement.
  • A screening of a film about community-led housing in general, Peg Alexander’s documentary film ‘Britain’s Housing Crisis: A People Powered Solution?‘.  Peg talks to people involved in Lilac, ChaCo, CITU and Leeds Community Homes in Leeds and Granby 4 Streets in Liverpool.

Before leaving, we added our personal ‘next steps’ to a wall as we reassembled in the main hall.

Although this was the culmination of one series of events, it was emphasised that this was just the beginning of the next phase of support for community led housing in Greater Manchester.

Sian Richards
December 2018