Speaker Notes: Dr Paul Redgrave, Co-housing Leeds

Speaking notes for workshop:

“A Co-operative Blueprint for Older People’s Social Care” or
“Growing old disgracefully”

In this brief introduction to the discussion, key questions covered will be:

  • What is the problem cohousing is trying to solve?
  • What is cohousing?
  • Where are the existing examples of cohousing? Are they working?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are our underlying values/politics?
  • How can you get involved in cohousing?

What is the problem cohousing is trying to solve?

  • There is a massive crisis in housing in terms of
    • Supply generally
    • Affordability in the rental sector
    • Affordability the home ownership sector
    • Current housing stock generally unsustainability – carbon footprint
  • Isolation and loneliness especially amongst older people
  • Can we rely on the market to sort it all out? NO!
  • We need bottom up solutions from communities not just top down ones from government.

What is cohousing?

  • An intentional community
  • Created and managed by residents living and working on shared tasks together
  • Individual self-contained households with 1 to 4 bedrooms
  • Central feature is a ‘Common house’ with kitchen-dining room, launderette, shared equipment, cars, etc, plus other shared spaces – gardens for being in and growing stuff, children’s play areas, workshop, bike shed
  • Cohousing is a way of combating the alienation and isolation many experience today, recreating the neighbourly support that existed for many more people in the past – especially relevant as we get older!

Where are the existing examples of cohousing? Are they working?

  • The movement has been well established in many countries, e.g. USA, Scandinavia, Holland, Germany, in some cases for decades
  • 19 current projects across UK, 70 groups developing projects
  • Lancaster: individual mortgages, PassivHaus standard
  • LILAC : Mutual Home Ownership Scheme, straw build; aims at being carbon -ve, de-linking from property market
  • Most multigenerational, a few for older people, some women only

What are the benefits?

  • A balance between privacy and increased social interaction when you want it
  • Reduced impact on the environment, lower energy costs for individual households
  • Sharing resources and skills, friendships and learning from each other
  • Inclusive, getting support when needed
  • Joint meals, growing food, sharing certain facilities – it’s cheaper!
  • 10 ways to be loneliness “live together – but not together”. Observer 2016
  • A positive, alternative way of living that supports the non-profit making housing market – Cohousing can be a compromise between the craziness of both the rental market and of the private housing market

What are our values/politics?

  • Cohousing projects are “intentional” communities
  • Value wellbeing of all members, offer mutual support and work together
  • Value shared social activities and accept time commitment for tasks
  • Valuing people’s individual contributions, whatever their stage or situation in life
  • Respond to conflicts creatively with commitment to resolving them
  • Democratic/socialist/green

How can you get involved in cohousing?

  • Join and use the UK Cohousing Network
  • Find a local group or set up a local group
  • Visit existing projects, e.g. LILAC learning days info at: http://www.lilac.coop/ link up with Manchester Urban CoHousing at www.cohousingmanchester.uk
  • Link with local stakeholders – community housing groups, neighbourhood forums, housing associations, local councillors, planning department in LA, Link with local community land trusts 2010: 30 Now 225 with 700 homes (3000 homes by 2020) http://www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk/


  • There is a massive crisis in the housing sector and a climate change crisis – cohousing is one of the solutions
  • Cohousing is interesting, challenging and fun!
  • Cohousing is cheaper and it’s sustainable


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