A group of women in North London are pioneering a new housing scheme that is designing, creating and managing their own community through a new purpose-built set of flats.
Co-housing is a movement that started in Denmark and has established success across Europe and in the USA but has yet to succeed in the UK. Co-housing is “intentional community”-led creation and running of a collection of self-contained private residences with active engagement of the residents in community matters. This allows the housing to be designed to meet the particular needs of the residents whilst also providing communal spaces to be shared and the development of neighbourly support. In the UK it is currently estimated that less than 1% of housing fits this community-led model but there is increasing interest as it is seen as a possible way of combatting alienation and isolation and promoting community ownership. Not only this but it could be a way to provide environmentally friendly and affordable accommodation that is bespoke to the needs of its owners.
Older Women’s Co-Housing is a collection of women over fifty in Barnet, North London who are engaged in creating the first senior co-housing community that is dedicated to women-only. They describe co-housing as “a way of living as co-operative friendly neighbours”. The complex is due to be completed at the end of next month and unsurprisingly all the vacancies have been filled. It has already won a housing design award. It is easy to see why such an enterprise would be so appealing. Being community-led it allows for greater autonomy than your traditional sheltered housing schemes as each society sets their own rules and has the possibility of being a group of friends with similar outlooks and interests. Whilst a lot is shared as the members make clear in this Telegraph article this is not a hippy commune but a collective of independent individuals who retain their autonomy and dignity through mutual support.
Another key advantage is the opportunity to “future proof” the homes as part of the designing process. It allows for the inclusion of mobility adaptations as and when they are needed. Not only this but will emerging architectural developments there is scope to make these residences as ‘green’ and cost-effective as possible.
Whilst co-housing has not taken off yet in the UK, if the Older Women’s Co-Housing project is successful it may spark a flurry of similar projects across the country. To see other projects to the UK Co-Housing Network website. Watch this space…