A busy six months

Sorry it’s been so long since the last update. A whole lot has been happening:

  • We’ve had a number of social events – summer and winter solstice, a walk in the woods, and a housewarming party, among others.
  • We’ve attended a couple of industry events – one on modern methods of construction, and the Grand Designs event. It’s good to get our minds pre-loaded for when we come to working with designers, etc.
  • At one of those events, a representative from a local uni architecture department expressed interest in working with us to develop our ideas.
  • We opened a bank account, and received a grant from Homes England, via Community-Led Homes, to help us get incorporated.
  • We provided feedback on existing MHOS Rules (constitution) to the head of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, who is writing up a standard set, ready to be “pulled off the shelf” and used.
  • We’ve clarified our ideas about membership.
  • We’ve contacted a refugee support group, to clarify how our offer of a free place to refugees might work.

We look forward to a happy and productive new year.

Community in action

A great example of community in action:

One of our members is moving flat this week, so a bunch of us have been helping out wrapping and packing, then taking loads of stuff over to the new flat. Yummy food supplied – a delicious aubergine and cashew stew, with steamed and marinaded marrow and a leafy salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds. A great social time, overall.

Applied for start-up grant

On 8th July I finally pushed “go” on our application for start-up grant money. This money is provided by Homes England, but is small amounts that are administered by Community Led Homes, and by Locality in particular. It’s designed to get groups to the stage when they can apply for the bigger grants administered by Homes England.

Most of our grant will be used to help us clarify our Rules (co-ops have Rules rather than a Constitution) and get them written up in legal language.

Feels like another bit of progress. ;o)

Peer to peer learning event in Leeds

On the 20th June we attended a peer-to-peer learning event in Leeds, sponsored by Community Led Homes, which is an umbrella of a few different groups which are helping people with their own housing projects:

  • The Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH)
  • The UK Cohousing Network
  • Locality
  • The National Community Land Trust Network

There were opportunities to talk with people from other groups around the country, including a couple from the West Midlands.

There were some great sessions, including one on funding streams that are available to projects in various phases of their development. I also attended a session which gave us some clues on how to write a succinct but detailed-enough business plan.

Visit to Graven Hill

Graven Hill is the site where Grand Designs: The Street is set. A great series exploring self-build. I visited the whole site (The Street is only a tiny out-of-the-way part of the site) and took lots of photos of plots, foundations, homes under construction and finished homes. Very interesting.

We’ve decided our form of tenure

After much confusion and clarification, lots of information in various formats, and a formal set of meetings, using the Consensus Decision Making process, we have finally decided which form of tenure we aim to have for CoHOWM. And the winner is…

… Mutual Home Ownership Society (MHOS), similar to that used in Leeds’ Lilac community, but with our own tweaks. We would like to also include some social housing places, and a place for a refugee.

Well, it’s been a busy time!

So much has happened in the last year. Apologies that the blog hasn’t been kept up to date.

We’re in the process of opening a current account with Triodos Bank – an ethical provider of financial services.

We’ve looked at several sites, a couple in Bearwood and one in Stirchley. One of the sites in Bearwood looked like it really might be a possibility, despite some obvious difficulties. But in the end Sandwell Council weren’t able to finesse the various financial and political hurdles involved in allowing an inexperienced bunch to have land that was already problematic.

We purchased in some training on Censensus Decision Making.

We’ve visited Lilac in Leeds a couple of times, to hear about the Mutual Home Ownership Society works for them, and how they have reduced their environmental impact.

We had a lovely midsummer celebration at Rowheath Pavilion in Bournville.

One of us attended a Rojava Co-operative Solidarity Workshop (Rojava is, basically, the Kurdish area of Syria).

We’ve been to a number of conferences:

  • Community Led Housing, in Winterbourne
  • Ecofest at the MAC
  • Co-operative discussion and networking in town
  • And probably a couple of others!

First site visits

Two of us visited a small site in Bearwood on Saturday 29th September, after our regular meeting.

On Thursday 4th October four of us visited a large site in Hopwood. Two of us also visited a housing co-op in Redditch, built by Birmingham Co-operative Housing Services (BCHS). It looked very attractive.

It feels exciting to be starting to look at actual physical properties.