The event turned out really well! We had 20 people along, and we divided into four groups to discuss a variety of questions and then feed back to the whole group. The questions we discussed were:
What is cohousing? What do you already know about it?
Why cohousing? What do you hope to get out of it? What about it might be difficult?
Cohousing obstacles? What obstacles might the community face? What could we do about them? Who could help?
Your ideal? What would your ideal community be like? What kind of people? What communal facilities would you like? What would individual homes be like?
Where do we go from here?
Feedback on all these questions is being collated through the kind efforts of Sue Coomber and Stuart Martin. I’ll post this up sometime in the near-ish future.
I had just come across a Birmingham community-led housing group that meets out of the Impact Hub in Digbeth, and mentioned them towards the end of the meeting. The feeling of the meeting was that we should be working closely with them, and other such groups. I’ve also just followed up a lead to a housing initiative for older LGBT people in Birmingham, will be meeting up with a representative week beginning 4th December.
On Thursday 16th November I had a useful meeting with two councillors for Moseley and Kings Heath ward. They expressed interest in the cohousing project, and were aware of the several full-on housing co-ops that exist in the city. They expressed a general support from Birmingham City Council for such projects, stating that in some circumstances the Council were able to release pockets of land – though perhaps not on the scale that a 20-30 home development would entail.
For land, they mentioned that various public bodies – central or local government, the NHS, etc. – are looking to disburse tracts of land that they own, particularly for groups that have a social aim. At the moment I envisage that Brum Cohousing would have a social aim as one of its elements, but I’m not sure whether this would be strong enough to leverage some of this kind of land.
They gave me the name of the councillor and the officers who are in charge of housing for Birmingham City Council (BCC), and I’ve now invited them to the meeting on Thursday 23rd November, and to meet more generally to find out how BCC is fulfilling the obligations it has under 2105 self-build legislation. (See Brum Cohousing Links, Nerdy links.)
On Tuesday 14th November a networking event for co-ops around the Stirchley area was held at Artefact café, Pershore Rd. Over a dozen co-ops of one type or another were represented – including local housing co-ops and work co-ops, a film-showing co-op, the Church of England land rental organisation and the Central England Co-op. The prospective Labour candidate for Stirchley was also in attendance.
The gentrification of Stirchley was felt to be an issue, as was the failure of one council-granted land developer to develop affordable homes.
People at the meeting agreed that more networking events would be a good idea. There was an intention to produce a list of attendees and their organisations, and what they could contribute to a network of co-operatives – i.e. to each other.
Many great speakers and exhibitors from throughout the West Midlands and some from further afield – though I was mostly focussed on Birmingham. I can only mention a few names from amongst the crowd.
My top favourite was Dr Noha Nasser of Mela Social Enterprise. Mela have just published a book called “Connections: 12 approaches to relationship-based placemaking”, edited by Dr Nasser. Amongst other things she spoke of various projects and events held in Balsall Heath to increase community cohesion. A very human approach.