Alison and Bron from Pobl Group have blogged for us ahead of our Building Resilient Communities event on the Loftus Village Association – an intentionally created community that they have been a part of from the beginning. Come and join us at the event to find out more about the successes and challenges that this community, and Pobl, have had during their journey together.
The Loftus Village Association journey began in 2014 when Charter Housing (now Pobl Group) began the process of trying to find 19 households keen to move into Loftus Garden Village under a shared ownership scheme, and also at the same time to become co-operators.
It was a curious top down approach to setting up an intentional community.
Generally speaking Co-housing projects begin with a group of people who for various reasons want to share space and some time together, whereas we had the homes, but no people!
We had carried out some market research and identified a group of people who were interested in the idea back in 2012/13. So we began contacting those folk, and interestingly one of those did see the idea through to the end, and 6 years on is now on the Co-op’s management committee.
A lot of people liked the idea of living in Loftus Garden Village. It’s a particularly beautiful new housing development, and that wasn’t a hard sell.
Also most people liked the idea of living in a street where they know all their neighbours before moving in, had a sense of community, felt safe and enjoyed living in a visually attractive environment…..so ‘Greener, Cleaner, Leaner‘ living soon became LVA’s values. However it was all the legal/financial paraphernalia that went with it that many found a stumbling block.
Finding a financial and legal model was a headache for Pobl as an organisation and also for our would-be co-operators. We examined a few legal and financial models before coming up with a version of our own that felt right for us and also the co-operators. That done the co-operators had many months of working together to draft a management agreement, as well as months of training sessions on how to work together co-operatively. The management agreement has given the Co-op the responsibility of collecting the rent, being involved in resales and ‘staircasing up’ (to own a higher percentage) and taking on the early stages of any neighbour complaints. (none so far).
We lost people, we gained people and eventually ended up with 19 households comprising a complete mix of ages, numbers, and backgrounds. For some it was their first home of their own. Being a member of the Co-op meant that you could buy with only a 30% share, making it more affordable than most shared ownership schemes. For others they were starting out again after changes in circumstances, and for some it was a home for retirement.
To keep morale going while waiting for the builders to ‘hurry up and get on with it’ our co-operators enjoyed fun tasks like choosing their kitchen and bathroom, tiles and flooring, discussing what to do with their community garden and building (a garage), and generally getting to know one another.
There was an application system to ensure we found people who did genuinely want to be part of a community and support one another, rather than just live in a nice house. Would be co-operators had to fill in a section asking them to indicate how much time they could offer each week or month.
Two years ago the street moved in…bit by bit, with great excitement. There was a huge amount of camaraderie with lots of ‘lending a hand’ with the trials of moving in.
The Co-op has achieved a beautiful community garden, two shared spaces, an office and a garage where garden tools are stored and kept. They have held numerous social get togethers (often involving the wider community), including Carols by the Christmas Tree, Halloween, Easter celebrations, a Play Street event, where the road was closed for children to play. Household costs i.e. boiler servicing and energy charges, are reduced via collective bargaining, and they have a reduced Carbon footprint from other streets by sharing power tools.
They have just held their third annual general meeting. It hasn’t been a bed of roses, and it won’t ever be. They complain about one another sometimes, complain about Pobl, and generally don’t really want to do the boring stuff.
But they are a community, and they certainly appreciate the power of that, and wouldn’t want to change it.