Hope for Housing conference

A very exciting conference pulling together:

  • folks who are hoping to develop or seek to maintain their own housing
  • central government housing officers
  • Birmingham City Council officers
  • suppliers of information or infrastructure

was held in the lovely location of Winterbourne Gardens on Monday 9th July. For more details see this Hope for Housing notice. It was particularly exciting that just the week before, the government had finally announced details of the Community Housing Fund.

It was great to see the enthusiasm of a whole range of people. The Birmingham Community Led Housing Partnership has put forth a prospectus. No website yet, but their partner organisations at the moment include:

People powered housing

Had a good time at this event, Thursday 10th May. Speakers included:

  • Bright Muyoti, of the newly formed NeAs, a group of Nechells and Aston residents who want more affordable housing in their area.
  • Heather Kennedy and Becki Winson, Organisers from the New Economics Foundation, who shared NEF’s findings into how people can take control of land in their local community and use it to solve the housing crisis
  • Pete Richmond of Birmingham Housing, who gave an update on the work he and others are doing to enable more community-led housing schemes in the city.
  • Adam Eddleston of ACORN Birmingham, talked about the work they are doing to take on bad landlords and improve things for private renters.

Others present included representatives from Generation Rent, Citizens UK and Climate Action Network West Midlands.

Birmingham zero carbon house open morning

Hi folks, the zero carbon house in Balsall Heath, Birmingham is having an open morning on Thursday 1st February. I can’t make this, but it should be a very informative event. Check out http://zerocarbonhousebirmingham.org.uk/early-2018-open-day-thursday-01-february/.

I think we should also arrange to go as a group sometime in the nearish future. (They are happy to do these kind of one-off tours.)

Bearwood event to find out about Brum Cohousing

Brum Cohousing welcomes you to an event to explore the advantages and disadvantages of cohousing; the obstacles that might arise; and your ideas for an ideal community.

  • Mon 22 January. Doors 7:15pm.
  • Event 7:30pm to 9pm-ish.
  • Thimblemill Library
  • Thimblemill Road
  • Smethwick
  • B67 5RJ

Tickets for free at Eventbrite or via Facebook.

Stirchley event – find out all about cohousing

Brum Cohousing welcomes you to an event to explore the advantages and disadvantages of cohousing; the obstacles that might arise; and your ideas for an ideal community.

  • Thurs 25 January. Doors 7pm.
  • Event 7:30pm to 9pm-ish.
  • Artefact Cafe
  • 1464 Pershore Rd
  • Birmingham
  • B30 2NT

Tickets for free at Eventbrite or via Facebook.


Over Christmas I spent some time at my oldest child’s squat (an abandoned church) and at a housing co-op he lived at previously. Fantastic people, doing lovely things (like feeding homeless people on Christmas Day). But I am reinforced in my belief that cohousing is a better solution for myself!

Housing and Communities Research Network

On Thursday 14th December I attended an event at the University of Birmingham titled “Citizen Power and Housing: How Can the Disconnect Between Communities and Housing Agencies Be Addressed?” The panel consisted of people who had been involved in Birmingham’s Urban Renewal Program in the 70s and 80s, and looked at the extent and quality of public involvement in community planning over that period – in contrast to the diktats of central planners before and after that period.

I noted the superficial nature of Birmingham City Council’s “consultation” with the people of Druids Heath, regarding the redevelopment of the area; and the fact that while the redevelopment entails a certain overall reduction in housing, council housing is being drastically reduced. Further, there is no “right of return” for existing residents. I also plugged Brum Cohousing!

I enjoyed informal networking opportunities, including with John Goodman, Chair of UK Cohousing, and with someone interested in the public health implications of housing who had ties to the West Midlands Combined Authority, and passed on to me a contact in the WMCA’s Housing and Regeneration directorate.


In summer HCRN will be hosting an event to talk about some research that has been going on, comparing the alternative housing sectors in the UK and in Austria. I’ll keep people posted so they can come along if they wish.

Engagement meeting 23 Nov 2017

This meeting to engage new prospective members was held in Kings Heath Community Centre. A number of questions were discussed in small groups and shared with the whole meeting. Many thanks to everyone who took part, and especially to Sue Coomber and Stuart Martin for pulling together the notes from the groups.

What is Cohousing?

Cohousing is intentional living, community with a shared ethos. Something between a commune and independent living. Commitment to caring for others in the scheme. Desire not to live in isolation. Living in a safer place. A sense of freedom. Community type housing, where residents would have their own accommodation, along with some shared facilities and support.

Residents could be of mixed ages, including children. Cohousing could possibly involve Housing Associations.

Why Cohousing?

Living with and getting to know other people, avoiding isolation. Friendship and community. Support for living needs and more generally. Long-term security, particularly security of housing. A pet-friendly place.

Sharing: responsibility for pets; activities – e.g. parties, games etc.; interests and skills; resources (like a great coffee machine!).

Well built, modern sustainable housing, more environmentally friendly. Communal food production would be a possibility.

What obstacles might there be, and how could we overcome them?

It’s good to note that some things that are initially obstacles become strengths once they have been managed. E.g. agreeing an ethos will take some work. But once done, the common ethos will help to sustain the community.


Planning. Decision making in groups – carrying people forward. How to move past differences. Making sure everybody is involved. Agreeing structures and plans, then managing those structures and plans. Keeping people inspired, sustaining interest – momentum. Sustaining a commitment to seeing the idea through. Members having enough time and energy to be involved.

Finding and agreeing the right site. Agreeing the overall size and the size and number of units.

Finding banking and finance. Sorting out the financial implications for individuals.

Help in overcoming obstacles

Official bodies such as Birmingham City Council, who are required to give support to self-build groups. Networking with established non-governmental groups – e.g. Cohousing UK, Diggers and Dreamers, other specific housing projects.

Having a large group, with a shared ethos/vision. Being able to use the skills and knowledge of people in the group.

Having a communal mortgage with e.g. Ecology Building Society.

What is your ideal model for our cohousing community?

Nice people. A mixed range of ages, race, gender, sexuality and abilities. Sympathetic to cat (and dog) lovers. Equality for all. Everybody has input into the design. Regular community meetings.

The project should be sustainable/ green – making use of wind, solar energy etc.

Integration with the wider community. Parks, river and green spaces within reach.

Should be both a living and a working facility.

Individuals/ families to have their own front door. Residential to include different types of ownership (tenure). Housing is designed with accessibility and adaptability in mind. Accessibility to all facilities. Short term emergency accommodation, and visitor / guest accommodation.

Living space for parties, community activities – a ‘village hall’. A play space. A sauna, steam room. Billiards/snooker.

Work space to include laundry, workshop, art/dance studio, IT. Work hub. Space for bikes and maintenance. Communal garden, allotment, shed, animals. A car pool.

What activities, social and practical, should we pursue?

Work meetings: Talks on process – e.g. on decision-making (consensus v majority); Meeting to create a timeline to work to, with dates and milestones. Project management meetings to advance the project, and give a sense of progress. Research and planning particular aspects of the scheme, e.g. general finance and how to finance the scheme.

Social events: Bring and share meal. Games evening. Book groups. Discussion groups. Days out. Walks. Events to share knowledge, such as general building knowledge; making stuff – DIY and craft workshops.

Visits to other cohousing projects – e.g., Still Green; having speakers from e.g. Leeds (LILAC) re working with the council, housing, housing associations, low environmental impact. Generally building contacts with other cohousing projects and associated networks.

Meetings to recruit more prospective members. (Need to make sure these new people are integrated into the group.)