OWCH in Touch [pdf] - News since we all moved in
Just two more of us to move in now and we'll all be together by mid February. Latest resident to move in was Janet, an event celebrated in the Enfield Gazette & Advertiser: High Barnet's unique all-women housing scheme welcomes its newest resident
So far 14 of us are now in residence and there has been lots of coverage in the media:
"We are making history": Pollard Thomas Edwards unwraps £4.2m senior cohousing in Barnet. 13th Dec. Architects Journal
Jessica Mairs: Pollard Thomas Edwards completes UK's first over 50's cohousing scheme | De Zeen 9 Dec
Finally OWCH members have begun moving into their new homes
We hope everyone will have moved in by early January. The last few exhausting and anxious months have taken their toll on many of us, but this will fade with time and rest. Our dream is being realised at long last.
We are carving out a path for others in our age group to follow. We hope they have an easier journey than us, now we have shown the way. The senior cohousing community could enrich the last years of many, and reduce pressures on health and care services, if local authorities, planners, policy makers and developers helped remove the many obstacles society puts in its way.
Well, we were a bit over-optimistic about our move-in date. OWCH members now find they must hold out in their temporary accommodation until the scheme is completed this autumn. All kinds of adjustments have had to be made to our arrangements, individually and as a community. One sofa-surfing OWCHer has stayed in 16 different places! We hope to be in Barnet by November, taking our first steps in living as the cohesive community we have created.
July 2016: We won an award
At the 2016 Housing Design Awards, New Ground Cohousing was entered by our architects Pollard Thomas Edwards. It won the Richard Feilden award, established by the Homes & Communities Agency in memory of 'the great housing architect, Richard Feilden... given to a project that epitomises values he brought to housing, best summarised as championing the common good, while being innovative and sustainable'.
Louise Wyman, one of the judges, described her role in the HCA as delivering a new wave of garden cities - which have about 3 and a half years' lead time to engender whole new communities. 'Which is why this small project raises a wry smile because it began 18 years ago when a group of women formed Older Women's Cohousing, better known by the great name of OWCH.'
She described how 'a few years ago, Hanover Housing took the project under its wing, offering to fund and develop the homes both for rent and owner-occupation on a disused school site'. She congratulated OWCH, PTEa and Hanover for the achievement. 'Intriguingly, the final hurdle to this project was the requirement to show the health (sic) services at Barnet Council how a group of ageing women could reduce the burden of care costs, an anxiety in a borough where more than 3 in 10 older people live alone and would really benefit from the interdependence planned for old age by OWCH'. See the Custom Build Strategy website for more details
Most OWCH members who were able to have now visited the site of the new building in Union St, High Barnet and some have even walked around their own flats. There is a general concern about the long delay and its quite heavy knock-on effects for those who are living temporarily somewhere, with their belongings (and pets) in store, but there is also a heady feeling of excitement and hope. The building is already showing the promise of what it will become. It looks highly likely that members will be able to move in during the second half of August. That cannot come too soon.
OWCH is now making plans for an opening ceremony a month or two later, when everyone has recovered, to celebrate the first senior cohousing community in the UK and to thank all those who have contributed to its realisation. They will also reach out to the neighbours, who have had to put up with a lot, inevitably, despite the careful and considerate behaviour of the construction workers. Union St residents will see what a lovely building has replaced a derelict school and the ugly, 15 ft wall, to make the streetscape so much more attractive. Watch this space for pictures of the completed scheme after the hoardings come down.