Our community has a housing affordability crisis, but it’s not just about building more homes, rather it’s about the right sort of homes. We should aim to build genuinely affordable housing that more fully meets the needs of would-be residents. These homes will be more than a place to live, they will create a community for a full life, sharing space, time, and facilities with each other and the wider community, whilst retaining the usual private spaces of traditional homes. 

Community housing models are familiar to our European neighbours and are becoming popular here too with “co housing” schemes being built across the country. With this in mind, a collection of local residents have been inspired by the OWCH (Older Women’s Co Housing) scheme in Barnet, to form HOWCH: Hastings Older Women’s Co Housing. 

The Barnet scheme’s shared space includes a garden, guest rooms, and a common room where meals and parties can be enjoyed. The women share outgoings and some costs. There are places to chat, and read a paper on a rainy day. The women manage the place, and so no one else profits or imposes rules. Their units are designed with ageing in mind, there are lifts and wide doors. 

Community housing models are useful for various groups of people, facing different challenges, but HOWCH are starting with housing for older women, that is women over fifty. They recognise that women often work part time with caring responsibilities for children and parents, and this means lower incomes, which in turn impacts on their pension incomes. Older women often face real hardship when looking for homes that are affordable to rent or to buy, particularly when they are living alone.    

HOWCH are planning to have affordable homes to rent with some shared ownership and the option to buy a leasehold. Their designs are tailored to minimise costs, and expenses will all be shared to reduce their impact on individuals.

“We are interested in what people think, and what their concerns are. We hold public meetings. We are keen to recruit volunteers to become members of the group, to meet and get to know each other, talk to each other, make decisions and agree how we will proceed” says group organiser Gabriella Pettitt. 

The group is made up of local people, and planning an open membership and democratic governance structure. It will work with, amongst others, the local council to acquire land, fundraise and build relationships with architects and developers to ensure that it builds the right kind of homes.

HOWCH is supported by Action in Rural Sussex, which is promoting community-led housing. HOWCH has obtained a start up grant from National CLT and is seeking additional funding from Hastings Borough Council who have been extremely supportive of the idea
so far.

n If you are interested in the project please contact [email protected] or [email protected] 

n HOWCH’s next public meeting will take place on Friday the
15th February 2019 from 4-6pm
at Cafe Grand rue de la Perra,
73-74 Queens Road, Hastings.

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