Housing for our communities

Do you have that feeling that the housing market isn’t quite working? That developers are making money but communities don’t benefit much? Community land trusts are one way that communities are taking back the power over their housing. I spoke with Charlie from Oxfordshire Community Land Trust about their work and their latest campaign to create affordable housing in Oxford.

A community land trust protects land and property assets and makes them affordable for the community, whether it be for work, housing or leisure.

Their legal structures could be Industrial and Provident Societies for the Benefit of the Community, Community Interest Companies, Charitable Trusts or Companies Limited by Guarantee, but the principles are the same – ensure that assets benefits the community and not outside companies.

In Oxford at the moment Homes for Oxford, another community group is working with the trust to fundraise for their own housing development. You can learn more and donate to the work here.

What are some of the ties that hold us down and prevent us from living a life that we believe in, a life that benefits those around us and makes us feel fulfilled? For many people the answer is simply needing to pay the bills, being caught in a cycle of work to pay the rent. If we can remove the wealth extractors from our housing market we have a chance to create housing that benefits our communities, and helps give people more freedom to do what they think is right.

 

Radical Routes

Freeing ourselves to find a better future can have many different strands but access to housing and ethical work is a key component. Radical Routes is a network of primarily housing co-operatives all over the country that allow people to collectively own a home and live co-operatively. I visited a housing co-op in Nottingham to see how they lived.

Radical Routes is about people taking control of their own housing, work, education and leisure activities. People set up co-ops to manage these activities themselves, removing the need for managers, owners, bosses or landlords.

10 people live in Ned’s housing co-op so I was expecting some horror scenes of student style living. I as very pleasantly surprised to discover a clean home with bulk ordered food, shared meals and creative spaces. Communal living is always a function of the people living together but it was lovely to see a house where like-minded people are able to live cooperatively. Seven principles of a co-operative were hanging from a tea towel in the kitchen, bikes were in the workshop and ethical books were covering the shelves.

Radical Roots also runs an ethical investment scheme called Rootstock which lends to co-operatives on the basis of mutual support. It’s exciting to see the growing number of co-operatives where people are coming together to take power over their living, and the way that Radical Routes is helping to support that movement. There are so many ways that we can work together to live more in harmony with our ethics. Let’s celebrate taking the radical route of co-operation.

 

 

Earth shelters and retrofitting

The more thermal mass (weight that can absorb heat) a building has, the more it will average out the temperature around it. For example, in a cave underground in England the temperature is an average of the yearly temperatures – around 10 degrees C. An earth shelter takes advantage of this by having the building partially buried in the earth or with earth mounds up the sides.

Earth shelters are just one of the types of buildings that Idp Search architects produce but as well as new builds they crucially also do retrofitting – altering an existing building to make it less wasteful. One project they have been using is called Greening the Box. You can see an example of their work which is in High Wycombe.