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December 2017 Parliamentary Select Committee
On Monday 4th, at 5.00 pm, the Communities & Local Government Committee heard evidence on Senior Cohousing as a form of alternative housing for older people, from Anna Kear, UK Cohousing Network, and Maria Brenton, Network Senior Cohousing Ambassador. Their evidence may be found at 17.09 pm on the following link: http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/f5e7b1d4-8b04-4ddd-8e82-8ecea70731a3
Another witness, Patrick Manwell is one of the architects of Castlemaine Court, Byfleet, Surrey, 16 flats designed to Lifetime Homes standards for people of all ages, replacing low-demand bedsit accommodation for older people. Its LTH standard allows people to remain in their own homes into old age. It was recognised as the best designed development in the Inside Housing Top 60 developments of 2015.
LEARNING EXCHANGE DAY
OWCH had an exciting day on October 26 when we hosted a Learning Exchange between 10 other developing cohousing projects. While the political climate is changing towards cohousing and groups are benefitting from the massive media interest in OWCH since our launch, most of those attending reported the same perennial problems of finding land and finance.
Much was learned by sharing progress and difficulties and it was interesting to hear of the many very different models and stages of progress. Some had tried to include social renting properties but none had succeeded yet. Their experiences with local authorities varied tremendously, some more successful than others - and certainly more so than our history shows.
Most were starting by investing in land and selling properties, some without any membership conditions. Some had raised funds for a project manager while others advised acquiring an external advisor to oversee the pros and cons of the detail of developing schemes. Few concentrated on building their community of members in the way OWCH has done.
All went home appreciating the shared learning from which OWCH also benefitted.
OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND 16th & 17th September 2017
They were queuing outside long before our 10am opening time on both days and the last viewers arrived after the last tour had been programmed.. There was universal acclaim both for the architecture and the idea of cohousing which had been new for many. Patrick and Tom from (PTE Architects) and Hilary (from OWCH) led 4 tours a day, leaving them parched from explaining.
Every resident was on duty, some showing off their flats, some socialising, informing and enjoying the acclaim. We have not yet decided whether we will repeat the adventure next year. It will depend on our evaluation of how we coped and whether we could do it in a way that was not quite so exhausting. But it was well worth while as so many of the visitors left intent on promoting cohousing.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NEW GROUND
Those who have jobs leave those remaining to their household chores, U3A classes, voluntary work, swimming and neighbourly get-togethers. It is quiet apart from builders who continue to drill and rectify snags
The post fairy collects the communal mail and slips it into our suffragette coloured individual letter boxes.
We bump into each other in corridors, at the supermarket and the numerous charity shops that line the High Street. We have dispersed our surplus belongings there and exchanged them for bits and bobs to which we were tempted but don't necessarily need. Incidentally there are many superior garments in these High Barnet shops.
Groups of four plan the next week's communal mealand display the menu inviting members to sign up while others commit to cleaning up afterwards. Wecheck our emails for the latest reports of meetings and future programming. There is a concert here, a games or sketching afternoon to join.
Gardeners wonder if last night's rain will limit the amount of watering to be done by those on the hosepipe rota. Deadheading, weeding is done when necessary. We note which plants or veg. are doing well. Harvesting our early crops is exciting.
If it is sunny we chat across balconies, inviting others for a cuppa or a chance to stroke the cats. Someone has not been seen today. Should we checkup on her?
The quiet is broken mainly by laughter. Life is full and good.
London Community Led Housing (CLH) Information Hub
On Friday July 14, Angela and Maria presented a short account of ‘New Ground’ Cohousing at City Hall, to an audience of representatives of the Community-Led Housing (CLH) Movement.
We were part of an event organised to launch the London CLH Information Hub, funded by the Greater London Authority and some of the London boroughs to the tune of £450,000. All kinds of housing initiatives were represented there, such as Community Land Trusts, cohousing groups and co-operatives.
The Information Hub will be established in a few months to supply CLH groups in the capital with a range of expert advice on self-build, custom-build, etc. The UK Cohousing Network, the Community Land Trusts Network and CDS, Co-operative Development Services, are collaborating on its formation.
Luke Crookes cohousing creative workshop
The task was to express the essence of the move into our new building. How to interpret 18 years of struggle to establish a new form of collaborative living for older women?
Could it be put into words, sounds ?
An impossible task maybe.?
Yet the members of OWCH attacked this challenge with both apprehension and open minds, the challenge put to them by Luke Crookes, professional bassoonist and musical workshop experimenter.
Luke first entertained us with his virtuoso, humorous display of the myriad sounds and styles the bassoon can create. Then we experimented with a soundscape illustrating our journey from its beginnings, fears, anticipation, through to inhabiting our beautiful new home.
We let go inhibition and nervous expectations, whooping it up at ultimate success, together with the highs and lows of the arduous journey, using our voices and hands to enhance the unique journey with practical impatient foot stamping and expressive welcoming arms
The mystery of interpretation of OWCH's journey became a joyous recollection which was a quite different way of owning the feelings in which we normally express ourselves.
Sisters are doing it for themselves [Daily Telegraph]
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.
2016 August 20th Daily Telegraph
Sixty, female and all living under one roof
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'.
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.
2016 April 5th Co-op News
London calling for an end to housing crisis
2016 Feb 28th Observer interview with Shirley
"10 ways to beat loneliness" no.9) "Live together – but not too together"