Basic Information about OWCH
A guide to prospective residents, their families and friends
What is cohousing?
A form of grouped housing set up and run by the people who live in it. Occupants subscribe to a set of defined values and aims; they enjoy their own accommodation, personal space and privacy, but in addition have common areas in which to meet and share joint activities. The aim is to promote neighbourliness, combat isolation and offer mutual support; residents will also be encouraged to become involved with the local community. The OWCH scheme is not in any way sheltered housing, nor a gated retirement community cut off from the outside world.
OWCH values are:
- Acceptance and respect for diversity
- Care and support for each other
- Providing a balance between privacy and community
- Countering ageist stereotypes
- Co-operating and sharing responsibility
- Maintaining a structure without hierarchy
- Caring for the environment
- Being part of the wider community
New Ground Cohousing
is a development of 25 self contained flats with shared communal facilities and gardens, managed by its residents on the cohousing principles of neighbourly collaboration and mutual support. It consists of 11 one-bed, 11 two-bed and 3 three-bed flats plus a common room, guest room and laundry.  There is limited parking, and sharing arrangements are in place. 17 flats are owned by their occupants on 250-year leases; 8 are for social renters on assured tenancies and are managed by OWCH and Housing for Women
How New Ground is managed
OWCH (Barnet) Ltd is a fully mutual company, with an elected management committee, and its decisions are made by the resident OWCH group via a monthly meeting. One of a number of policies agreed by OWCH concerns mutual support. The group undertakes ‘to look out for rather than look after each other’. Where an individual has care needs, she is expected to have arrangements in place to meet them. Everyone is expected to contribute insofar as she can and the OWCH community cares for ‘New Ground’ and the group’s life together through a series of small work teams, such as for cleaning, gardening, finance, membership, communications and so on. There is a communal meal each week.
Who can live there?
The Union Street Cohousing scheme is exclusively for women aged 50 or more, who become members of OWCH (Barnet) Ltd. No one may be a resident who does not meet these criteria, but visitors of any age or gender are, of course, welcome. OWCH has certain policies that are reviewed periodically.
Who can become a tenant?
The OWCH Group nominates prospective tenants for the 8 social rentals, who must be women of 50+ and members of OWCH.
Criteria for social rental
• are recognised as eligible by a local authority;
• or are tenants of a social provider such as a housing association or local council;
• or are private renters on housing benefit;
• or are in unsuitable or insecure accommodation
• or are referred by an approved referral agency
• or are a transferring tenant from Housing for Women
All tenancies granted will be assured. The tenant will sign a tenancy agreement with H4W, which will make their rights and responsibilities absolutely clear.
Who can become a leaseholder?
Available leases are offered to members of the OWCH Group. Thereafter flats can be sold by the leaseholders in the normal way, but with the restrictions given below.
Restrictions on selling a lease.
There are two fundamental restrictions on who can own a lease of a Union Street Cohousing flat:
1) the person must be a woman
2) she must be 50 years or more in age
There is a third qualifying restriction:
3) she must have become a member of the OWCH Group by going through their selection process and being accepted by all existing members of the group.
When a leaseholder (or her heirs) wants to sell her flat she will approach the OWCH Group, and together they will determine a fair sale price “acting reasonably” (this phrase is written into the lease and would normally imply getting 2 or 3 independent valuations of the property by a chartered surveyor). OWCH will then have 6 months from the time the sale price is agreed in which to find a group member or potential group member who is willing to buy. If no OWCH member has come forward within this time, the leaseholder is then free to sell to someone who meets the two fundamental criteria, but is not a member of the OWCH Group. However, such a purchaser will automatically become a member of the managing company, OWCH (Barnet) Ltd., when she moves into her flat.
It is important that all potential leaseholders (and their families and/or heirs) should be aware of these restrictions and the fact that they may make it harder to sell a lease, could reduce its market value and might make it difficult to raise a mortgage on the property. However we hope that because the flats are so attractive and the cohousing scheme works so well there will always be a pool of potential purchasers hoping to move in whenever an opportunity arises.