Areas of work
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.
Susan Chambers, LOLC
The Early Stage Support Programme
London Older Lesbian Cohousing (LOLC) received support from ‘The Early Stage Support (ESS) programme’, designed in partnership with the Nationwide Foundation to provide the support required by new and existing community organisations at the start of their community-led housing (CLH) journey.
The programme has shown that early stage professional advice, peer to peer learning and grant funding is essential to support both new startup groups and existing community organisations to progress CLH schemes.
Building an affordable, environmentally friendly community
LOLC’s 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.
In Stonewall Housing’s report ‘Building Safer Choices’ (2016) it highlights that there are only a handful of specialist housing schemes in the UK despite the levels of housing discrimination that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) citizens suffer.
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 members live or have lived, in north-east London (Haringey, Islington, Hackney, Waltham Forest), and this is their favoured location to find a suitable site.
Going from imagination to reality
With help from Locality mentors, CLH advisors and grant funding, the ESS 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.
An advisor has worked with the group to explore governance structures, and from an interim constitution, the group have been supported to become 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.
Developing a pioneer model for small-scale community housing
The links through the ESS programme helped introduce the group to 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: a 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.
Accessing land and finding a developer partner
These experts across the field of community-led housing are crucial for advice, as well as to help LOLC make the contacts they 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 challenge. Through this work with partners, they are identifying the specifications of sites and exploring flexibility.
It has been a challenge for the group to balance holding workshops and decision-making meetings, at the same time as ensuring support and participation from group members. The offers of support have really helped the group to move forward, but the group has found they need time to discuss, assess 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 continue to work with the London hub to find a site and find a Housing Association or other developer partner.
Find out more about the programme
You can find out more about the Early Stage Development Programme by reading the Evaluation Report.
Find out more about Community-Led Housing
Community-led housing projects are led by community groups determined to make sure that new homes are built and empty homes and buildings can be brought back into use to meet local housing needs.
If you’re looking for new ways to provide the homes your community needs, Locality can help.