By Kate Moran

Howch (Hastings Older Women’s Cohousing) is revving up after the lockdown and has good news: we’ve been given the go-ahead for a survey of the site we are assessing to build our housing project. The land is potentially suitable for building approximately sixteen private apartments, with shared facilities and appropriately landscaped surroundings.

Our target group for this pioneering project, combining Cohousing with a Community Land Trust (CLT) is single local women aged 50+ for whom there is scant affordable housing. Membership with voting rights is available to all adults local to the area.

Community-led housing models, such as ours, have emerged nationwide as alternative solutions to the housing shortage, and can tailor their provision to local need. Howch hopes to act as a template for future projects, possibly inter-generational.

Left to right, Ruth Gregory, Kate Moran, Carol Prior
PICTURE: David Bruce Photography

A telling lesson through the lockdown is how connection with our neighbours can smooth our path, greatly increasing well-being and lowering anxiety. Within days of lockdown our villa block in St Leonards was sharing shopping, cooking tips, excellent sourdough bread and veg boxes. This is the neighbourly support that we will recreate in our Cohousing community.

A recent Government slogan proclaims, ‘Build Back Better’ and we hope to play our part in this by achieving a sustainable build that will be low cost to run. The Chair of the National CLT network has written to Sir Christopher Pincher, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, stressing how much Community-led housing could support the economic recovery if the Community Housing Fund is renewed in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Prime Minister has also asked MP and former charity leader, Danny Kruger, to review how the voluntary sector could aid the UK’s recovery from the pandemic downturn. Howch will add their voice to this clamour for attention.

A recent community-led housing project which opened in 2016 in London, OWCH, has been a magnificent success in terms of well-being for the residents, but the project took 18 long years to realise. Since opening in 2016 they have successfully shown how it can be done, running many informative workshops – so successful that they have had to limit visits to the project.

Like us, OWCH has struggled to fulfil its Diversity clause but we are actively seeking BAME women’s perspective as we ask, “how can we add value?” to our residents’ lives and the wider community.

Enthusiasm is the most sought-after quality in the voluntary sector, and that will be given a boost when we reach the design and construction stage and break out the hard hats. 

Having a decent, affordable home is a key determinant of people’s health and well-being as the pandemic has highlighted.

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