2015 National Conference Retrospective: You Said It, We Did It Together!

Many of you may have attended the UKCN last national conference in Birmingham in November 2015. This was before I joined UKCN, and since then I’ve been often asked “When is the next one?”, to which I’ve replied “We have a lot to do to deliver on the last conference outcomes, so we are prioritising that before we have another one”. 

With our next National Conference fast approaching on 27 November, I thought it would be good to look back at what you said at the last conference and what has been achieved towards the 100 Communities by 2025 – A Manifesto for Change that was crowd-sourced at that event.

These are the things we prioritised:

Cohousing to reach out to other models CLT’s, Co-ops, Development Trusts – Do more together
We have been actively involved in working with other Community-Led Housing organisations and have collectively put together a detailed plan to the Government on how to best set up the Community Housing Fund to ensure it delivers what is needed. This plan includes investment in local community-led housing support hubs so groups can get the ‘free at the point of access’ technical advice to get their project set up, along with capital funding for building and affordable housing and revenue funding for costs such as planning. Making sure that this is available across the country for Cohousing groups continues to be our focus, and with the help of many groups we are continuing to campaign to get this Fund in place. We have also been working with other funders and investors to ensure that the right type and scale of funding and finance is available for Cohousing, and this is still work in progress as the movement grows. To make the most of our limited resources we have set up shared back office arrangements with the National Community Land Trust Network, enabling us to do more in the areas of communications, lobbying and events.

Cohousing to be truly accessible for everyone – develop rental model
We have been working to raise the profile of Cohousing, which includes working with local authorities and housing associations to increase the options of partnership working, to get Cohousing recognised in Local Plans and have mechanisms for affordable land disposal. We have been working to ensure the Community Housing Fund is accessible to Cohousing groups to get affordable housing grant as well as development funding. We still want to do more to support innovative co-operative rental models for Cohousing and are seeking funding to do more on this. We would love to hear from groups currently looking into this that would like to work with us.

Need to invest in the tools to get this done – web platform
We successfully got the Big Lottery to agree to support our new web platform development to include an interactive membership area to share information and knowledge, advertise services and available Cohousing properties. The platform is a key resource for the profile of Cohousing and our Directory is used widely to find out about groups and evidence the extent of the growth of Cohousing across the UK.

Lots of knowledge locked away – developing & support
As well as seeking the funding for the development of local community led housing hubs across the country we have set up a UKCN-accredited facilitator/consultant services list on our web platform, for groups to use with assurance of agreed ways of working. We would love more people with experience in all aspects of Cohousing to sign up to this and do let us know if you would like to be involved in the training services that we are currently setting up with other Community led housing organisations.

There is still much to do. These are some of the other issues you raised that we want to do more work on and will be part of our business plan for seeking funding to progress:
Growth – replication and making it happen faster
Change the image – engage younger people
Tools for maintenance & management
Scottish lease issues

Our National Conference on 27 November will be an exciting opportunity to debate where our movement goes next. I look forward to seeing lots of you there!

Anna Kear
Executive Director of UK Cohousing