It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I am writing this as my last blog for UK Cohousing, as my contract came to an end on 30th March. I have had a wonderful 2 years in this role, meeting many extraordinary people, but unfortunately the funding situation means that it is currently no longer viable for UK Cohousing to support the resource of an Executive Director.
UK Cohousing has achieved a huge amount in this time, mostly from the brilliant work of cohousing groups and their commitment to sharing their knowledge and experience with others. Through the new website we have made the sharing of these stories much easier to access and now have a large library of all the media coverage, along with a great range of videos by groups to explain and promote what cohousing is all about.
We have made some good progress in making cohousing easier to achieve and accessible to more people, but it is a long road and with limited resources unfortunately a slower journey than I would have hoped for. The Community Housing Fund, first announced in 2015, offered a game changing opportunity in England to both provide resources to community led housing and raise the profile and policy agenda at the same time. Although the first year of funding went directly to some local authorities, in many of these areas these have enabled community led housing hubs to be formed to directly support groups with technical expertise to develop their vision. UK Cohousing has been at the heart of promoting that these local hubs should support all forms of community led housing including cohousing, and that for those who need it this support should be free at the point of access. Many local authorities are now much more aware and supportive of community led housing than they were before. Following the announcement by the former Housing Minister at our conference back in November, I had hoped that the second and subsequent years of the Community Housing Fund would have been live by now, to provide funding directly to groups for both revenue and capital grants for affordable housing. I will be keeping my fingers crossed that this funding prospectus finally comes out in May. It was also really great to see the recommendation in the Select Committee report that ‘the Government, in partnership with the UK Cohousing Network, should produce guidance for local authorities on supporting cohousing groups through the planning system’. UK Cohousing will be writing to the Minister to support this recommendation and to offer to engage with members of developing or recently developed groups on the key planning issues.
It has been disappointing to me that we have not been able to support the cohousing groups in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the same way that we have in England. I hope that in capturing the learning from the investment in England, that their other governments will see the benefits and support community led housing including cohousing in the coming years.
So what’s next?
For UK Cohousing, the organisation has a strong membership base and can continue to operate its core function of sharing information on this income. We are optimistic that the UK Cohousing Trust will gain charitable status very soon and be able to flourish as a centre for practical research and education on community led housing including cohousing.
For me, well I am very honoured to have recently been appointed to be the CEO of Tonic, an organisation whose goal is to provide the older LGBT+ population in the UK with choice and control as it seeks to develop new housing and services which are safer, more supportive, and more culturally appropriate. I will start this new role, which is based in London, in May after some time out to go travelling in my camper van around Spain and Portugal. I will keep in contact with many of the people I have met through UK Cohousing and the wider community led housing movement, and very much hope to bring much of the learning into my new role.
All the best and thank you for your kindness, support and generosity of spirit that I have been so lucky to experience and understand to be the essence of Cohousing across the world, Anna.