Areas of work
Housing & Homelessness
London Older Lesbian Cohousing (LOLC) are developing an intentional co-housing community of between 20-25 housing units for older lesbians, aged over 50 in north-east London.

The vision is to create a community that is affordable, with a mixed tenure – combining homes for purchase, rent and shared ownership. It will be environmentally friendly, with low emission/footprint standards. Housing units will be accessible and based on the principles of Lifetime Homes – designed to meet the changing needs of their members.

The members of LOLC are all Londoners, with the majority holding extensive experience of working successfully in cooperative and collective ventures. Currently, most of the groups live or have lived, in north-east London (Haringey, Islington, Hackney, Waltham Forest), and this is their favoured location to find a suitable site.

Early Stage Support

With help from Locality mentors, external advisors and funding from the Nationwide Foundation, the Early Stage Support Programme has allowed the group to move from imagining what their project might be, to developing their governance structure, a business plan and outline project plans for 2018.

A mentor has worked with the group to explore governance structures, and from an interim constitution the group have been supported to make an application to be a company limited by guarantee.

The group have recruited group members through social media, meet-up groups, cohousing U.K. and word of mouth. They have had interest from over 40 women and have a core membership of 10-15 women.

London Older Lesbian Cohousing

After a mentor helped them to understand what they needed in their business plan, funding of £2,250 from the Nationwide Foundation meant the group could hold a series of workshops to develop the business plan’s content.

The group have held workshops with an architect who is experienced in designing cohousing projects to develop their design and cost specifications. Another workshop was held to explore the group processes – building the capacity and capability of the group. Then a workshop with the UK Co-housing Network has helped to understand the finances required from the start to the end of the project.

“The Early Stage Support programme, through our mentor support and the funds, has been fantastic and really speeded up the process for us. It has enabled us to receive advice from experts that otherwise would have been beyond our means.” – Group member

Working with the Greater London Authority

The group have also worked closely with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and, at the launch of the GLA Community-led housing hub, a support group of professionals was set up to work with the group as a pioneer model for the GLA in developing small scale intentional community housing.

The support group has met with them over the year to help develop a business plan. This group includes representatives from:

  • Pollard Thomas Edwards: architects with experience of cohousing– award winners for their design of New Ground, Older Women’s Cohousing community opened in 2017 in Barnet, London
  • NaCSB: representative from the National Association of Custom and Self-Build
  • Innisfree Housing Association: Chief Executive
  • Walterton and Elgin Community Homes, WECH: Chief Executive
  • LB Waltham Forest: Affordable Housing Development and Investment project
  • Social and Sustainable Capital.

These experts, across the field of community-led housing, are crucial for advice, as well to help make the contacts the group will need in the coming year. The GLA hub is helping link the group to the GLA small sites programme, which aims to help groups access land, as this is a particular challenge. Through this work with partners they are identifying the specifications of sites and exploring flexibility.

Challenges

It has been a challenge for the group to balance holding workshops and business decision-making meetings, at the same time as ensuring support for, and participation from, group members. The group aims to consolidate their plans in 2018.

The offers of support have really helped the group to move forward, but the group has found they need time to assess them, discuss them and progress ideas. Most of the group are still working, so it’s challenging, especially as older people, to go at a pace that suits their needs.

The next steps for the group will be to find a Housing Association or developer partner, funding for project management, land and pay for architects and surveys.

Find out more about London Older Lesbian Cohousing.