Collaborative Housing and Community Resilience

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Geography Politics and Sociology

Abstract

The proposed seminar series critically examines the emergence of a variety of collaborative and cooperative housing projects in the UK, noting the relevance of cohousing as a concept that combines protected elements of household privacy within a self-governing cluster of (20-30) households sharing outdoor space and communal facilities. The cohousing approach is collaborative because it embeds self-managed governance structures (such as co-production of building and landscape design) in the life of the community in a deliberate attempt to increase purposeful interaction between resident members to improve quality of life. While existing literature documents a rich history of radical experiments in communality, as well as enduring attempts by town planners to engineer social interaction between neighbours, the UK lags behind Continental Europe and North America in terms of completed housing schemes that reflect a culture and politics of everyday practices of sharing. This picture has changed dramatically since 2007 when the UK Cohousing Network began as an umbrella organisation for established and forming cohousing groups. Today there are 50 developing cohousing groups in the UK, an 80 percent increase in two years. A further 15 groups are recently established. Significantly, growing interest in approaches to community living and cooperative ownership and management of neighbourhoods is not confined to the grassroots. Mainstream media coverage lists cohousing among the 'top ten' solutions to the UK housing crisis and the language of government policy increasingly positions community-led housing development as a civil society self help response to loneliness, ageing with choice, and as an effective scale of influence for carbon-reduction and technology adoption.

In the proposal we stress the need to look beyond the confines of the home and the household in order to understand the positive contribution of a collaborative scale of congregated housing with social mechanisms for collective decision-making in carbon reduction behaviour, green technology adoption and community resilience. We stress the need to conceptualise resilience not only in terms of material and technological efforts to tackle housing and environmental vulnerability, but also human capacities for organising and living collectively. Tackling the combined challenge of housing affordability and sustainability requires not only methods of collaboration between civil society, third sector and state agencies, but also integrated and broader scale analsysis of community engagement and practice. The seminar series will explore complex and diverse ways of thinking through collaboration, resilience, affordability and ecological citizenship and bring this theorising to bear on everyday dilemmas facing diverse demographic groups.

The proposal would see the formation of a new interdisciplinary network that will strengthen links between UK and international cohousing networks and make possible new constellations of collaboration at the intersections of housing access and affordability, green technology, ecological citizenship and community resilience. Through a series of six events, including visits to iconic collaborative housing projects, the network will exchange knowledge and understanding on cutting edge comparative research and practice; it will develop a frame of reference for terminology and concepts to be used in multi-media published outputs. Each seminar draws on a suite of national and international reference projects that will help translate community-led housing into tangible evidence: this aspiration to 'mainstream' collaborative housing is shared by politicians, municipal authorities, third sector organisations, many academics and activists. The proposal benefits from the PI's proven track record in delivering two successful seminar series': Time-Space and Life-Course, and Working Class Lives, Geographies and Sociologies.

Planned Impact

In addition to the applicants' multi-disciplinary expertise, the proposal is directly co-produced and informed by, and intended to have immediate intellectual and practical impact for; resident groups and associated housing service providers seeking to build novel, low-impact, democratic collaborative housing communities.
The proposal will build on and extend existing networks of other non-academic user-groups that exist across a host of institutions and third sector organisations.
Overall the output from this series will be of significant interest and relevance to politicians, planners, policy-makers and voluntary sector organisations interested in expanding capacity for collaborative housing as one expression of community-led development. Within the UK, interested parties (already engaged with the applicants in various ways) will include, but will not be limited to:
- Homes and Communities Agency (and Department for Communities and Local Government)
- Local planning authorities
- SME builders, intermediaries; architects, specialised consultants
- Community Land Trust Network
- HQN Network custom-build
- Confederation of Cooperative Housing
- Radical Routes
- International Communal Studies Association (the current President is Chris Coates, resident of Lancaster Cohousing)
- Housing companies/ housing associations
- Transition Town Network
- Schumacher College
- Findhorn Foundation
- Third Sector Research Centre
- Building and Social Housing Foundation
- Locality
- Community Build
- National Association of Self Builders
- In Newcastle upon Tyne: the Quality of Life Partnership and Elders Council (following on from action-research with Jarvis as co-applicant looking at opportunities for senior cohousing in the north east).

The proposal has clear relevance for local and regional development because national programme developments, including the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, Localism Act 2012 and specific programmes and initiatives ring fenced to community led development such as Community Led Affordable Homes Programme Funding, dedicated development service to support the transfer of public assets into community ownership, all demonstrate a receptive environment of policy and action.
The proposal will also benefit residents and would-be residents of collaborative housing communities. Regional event locations have been chosen to maximise impact by locating near to grassroots projects and demonstrator initiatives. For instance, the Newcastle event will gain input from four pioneer groups; a senior group in West Northumberland, an intergenerational group in Newcastle, a similar group in Durham, and a group of artists seeking to develop an affordable live-work community in Sunderland.

The proposed seminar series fits well with a number of ESRC thematic priorities, most notably around deepening civil and civic engagement and democratic renewal towards 'a vibrant and fair society'. Questions of fairness that are addressed by the seminar series also make implicit connections to thematic priorities concerning how to improve local resilience, as a combined function of affordability and sustainability. By critically examining how cohousing community groups challenge energy-intensive privatised modes of dwelling, the seminar series will help us to better understand how to influence behaviour (through group support and peer influence, for instance) for targeted intervention to promote sustainable household practices. The proposal also will also enage with societal challenges threading through the Horizon 2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation; 'Europe in a changing world - inclusive, innovative and reflective societies', especially 'social innvoation community' and 'climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials'; 'Health, deomgraphic change and wellbeing', especially 'support older persons to remain active and healthy'.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Funding was granted for a seminar series rather than a piece of research. In this context, discovery entailed a gathering frame of consensus on the critical questions and policy priorities for community-led housing (CLH) as a sector; specifically cohousing. The grant facilitated the development of a new interdisciplinary network, six knowledge exchange events, site visits to exemplary CLH projects (in Leeds, Lancaster and Sheffield), new research partnerships, and novel methods of reaching a wide audience and demonstrating impact.
Discovery combines a network of learning and support for the growth of CLH as a sector and, within this, specific focus on cohousing in the UK today. Emphasis on two tiers of influence (umbrella and niche) emerged as a key finding of the seminar series:
(i) The umbrella terminology of CLH is used to represent a coherent sector capable of creating a more diverse and stable housing market that is less prone to speculation and volatility; capable of delivering housing of high quality, affordability, sustainability and resilience. There is also greater pressure to build common agendas and networks to scale up CLH as a sector.
(ii) At the same time, different organisational forms endure through historical legacies and commitment to a particular view of the building process or outcome. The proliferation of difference is not necessarily disruptive to sector development. Niche housing forms represent a potent seed-bed for innovation and alternatives, both social and technological, which are stifled by the mainstream regime.

A practical focus on cohousing emphasised the role this blend of private and shared space and community decision-making could play in addressing failings in mainstream housing. Six themes were explored to develop critical questions and identity gaps in knowledge: sharing; mutuality; affordability; design; mainstreaming and awareness; and knowledge.
Our work highlighted the complex, deeply rooted problems of the wider housing system. This complexity calls for solutions such as cohousing that harness collective capacity for behaviour change and innovation at all stages of design, build and occupation.
Across these themes, we identified a number of key findings:
In the UK, there is increasing demand for cohousing and other CLH choices
Internationally, as in the UK, the diffusion of cohousing innovation has been a long and difficult process, often lasting decades.
In the UK, many cohousing groups struggle to get off the ground. Newly forming groups tend to reinvent the wheel, particularly when it comes to procurement.
By comparison with other mixed-market economies the UK is both late and slow to deliver even a modest supply of community housing. Comparisons can be problematic due to differences in terminology but it is revealing that there are only 19 established cohousing communities in the UK versus over 600 in Germany.
Cohousing communities often perform better in economic and ecological terms than conventional speculative owner-occupied housing. These communities can be more affordable because facilities and resources are shared. They can reduce energy demand, waste and consumption by supporting sustainable practices.
These socially connected communities also have undeniable though less tangible social benefits for members and society at large, such as increased well-being, shared know-how, and mutual care. We need to find better ways of evidencing these benefits.
Cohousing could become more widely adopted if planning, financial and institutional infrastructures were better designed to support it (as in the USA and many countries in Europe).
Cohousing communities in many ways reflect the societies in which they are embedded and are not always free from inequalities based on gender, age, race and income. Recruitment processes, for example, can produce groups that are homogenous in terms of any or all of these attributes.
Exploitation Route Our findings were presented in Parliament on the 22nd June 2016 with a launch of a final report 'Cohousing: Shared Futures'. The launch was held in the Boothroyd Room of Portcullis House and was hosted by Richard Bacon MP. We have presented our findings to key people and at key events such that we can claim considerable political and policy impact in the context of major government investment in the CLH sector. Direct contributions include with DCLG and the AAPG National Housing Taskforce on New Sources of Housing Supply. We generated multi-media published outputs, including a word-press blog; highly visual final report and emphasis on 'seeing is believing' first-hand demonstrations of innovation in the field. We made a short film to illustrate the knowledge exchange and learning process; how participants tackled the critical questions posed. We circulated this via email and on our web and showed it at events. We developed a virtual 'jiscmail community' (66 members) by which to explore issues between seminars and circulate news of relevant events. These novel methods of reaching a wide audience and demonstrating impact have paid off in the wide variety of ways our findings have been taken forward by others, capturing their imagination. Our findings have contributed in other ways too, through co-applicant participation in conferences and seminars that have snow-balled out of the original seminar series (e.g. Jarvis and Fernandez at ENHR in 2016 and a COST Network European and UK Cohousing).
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Environment

URL https://collaborativehousing.net/
 
Description http://collaborativehousing.net/ JiscMail email discussion list: Collaborative-Community-Housing (50 subscribers) Key findings at 12 months Funding was granted for a seminar series rather than a piece of research. In this context, discovery entailed a gathering frame of consensus on the critical questions and policy priorities for community-led housing (CLH) as a sector; co-producing the terms of engagement with the UK Cohousing Network as non-academic co-applicant. The grant facilitated the development of a new interdisciplinary network, six knowledge exchange events, site visits to exemplary CLH projects (in Leeds, Lancaster and Sheffield), new research partnerships, and novel methods of reaching a wide audience and demonstrating impact. A fundamental objective of the seminar series was to develop all the strands of capacity necessary to establish and sustain communities of academic and non-academic dialogue and practice. Twelve months on, we can provide direct and indirect evidence of capacity building with respect to: (i) understanding issues, dilemmas and practical solutions common to CLH as a niche sector; (ii) knowledge and understanding of key concepts, theory and debate; (iii) engagement (including specific PhD and Early Career Academic capacity building); (iv) policy and planning. (i) Understanding issues, dilemmas and practical solutions common to CLH; representing CLH as a coherent sector capable of creating a more diverse and stable housing market that is less prone to speculation and volatility; capable of delivering housing of high quality, affordability, sustainability and resilience. - here on new sources of housing supply (on the umbrella stuff here); understanding diffusion Consensus on the critical questions and policy priorities has gained traction in the past 12 months through the ongoing collaboration of academic with non-academic co-applicants, accelerated by individual research, innovation, engagement and impact. For example, the UK Cohousing Network (co-applicant, plus the PI is non-executive member of Board of Directors) has developed joint working with the National CLT Network to lobby on the Community Housing Fund and the leasehold reform proposals that have unintended negative consequences for novel forms of collaborative, affordable housing. Co-applicants have had regular contact with activists and advocates involved with both these and other forming communities identified below - most recently through follow-on networking events on cohousing for older people in Berlin for the European Collaborative Housing Awards ('New Ground' project awarded for Older Women's Cohousing group OWCH) and EXDAYS 17 (Jarvis and Fernandez) a platform for European collaborative and cooperative housing and social innovation. Melissa Fernandez (and others) are learning from the success of New Ground/OWCH through a piece of follow-on participatory action research, funded by the Esme Fairbairn Foundation. (ii) Knowledge and understanding of key concepts, theory and debate; The PI and Co-applicants have published widely in the field (listed elsewhere) to develop and advance key concepts, theory and debate, including at international conferences such as European Network of Housing Research. PI output relevant to this seminar series includes scholarly contributions that demonstrate intellectual developments advanced from a previous ESRC funded seminar series (BH070141), (notably Jarvis, 2011, 'Saving Space and Sharing Time (in cohousing)' published in Environment and Planning A. Building on this earlier conceptual work, Jarvis has now connected the key concepts of sharing and togetherness in CLH to advance degrowth theory (Jarvis, 2017, 'Sharing, Togetherness and Intentional Degrowth', in Progress in Human Geography). This conceptual work has been well received (pre-publication, via Academia.edu); for example Professor Bronwen Morgan, UNSW has written to commend an 'excellent article' that 'really brings degrowth literature into conversation with sharing economy (and CLH) literature, which is rare despite shared terminology', that it 'brings the non-English degrowth literature on cohousing to a wider audience. The seminar series stimulated joined up dialogue and novel connections between debates such as housing and growth that are rarely aligned. (iii) Engagement, tools and technologies; The seminar series established effective and enduring communities of practice characterised by close engagement and a practical focus on shared learning. Tools and technologies emphasise 'social architectures' as well as digital and material technologies to support shared space and community decision-making and the diffusion of collaborative housing innovations to address failings in mainstream housing. Six themes were explored to develop critical questions and identity gaps in knowledge: sharing; mutuality; affordability; design; mainstreaming and awareness; and knowledge. Our work highlighted the complex, deeply rooted problems of the wider housing system. This complexity calls for solutions such as cohousing that harness collective capacity for behaviour change and innovation at all stages of design, build and occupation. Over the past 12 months the impact of themes of discovery have gained traction through: a. Non-academic partner UKCN, continuing to develop joint working and co-production with other community led housing organizations such as the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) and New Economics Foundation (NEF). The PI and Co-applicants have presented their work at conferences (listed elsewhere) with the aim to develop and advance umbrella terminology and language needed to understand the issues, dilemmas and solutions noted above (i). Co-applicant impact is evident with respect to CLH events and activities variously co-produced in the past 12 months with BHSF, Cohousing USA and US CLT, plus UrbaMonde/ Experimentdays Berlin. b. Raising awareness and accelerating the impact of ESRC seminar series discovery in the public domain through non-technical publications. For example, Jarvis published a piece in The Conversation on the anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox, MP, to raise awareness of the ways that collaborative housing reconnects people as antidote to rising loneliness highlighted by Jo Cox in her maiden speech and continued as her legacy in the Jo Cox Foundation. https://theconversation.com/a-year-after-jo-coxs-murder-britains-need-for-togetherness-is-stronger-than-ever-77273 This piece included links to the seminar series final report 'Cohousing: Shared Futures' and a short film to illustrate the knowledge exchange and learning process: c. PhD completions, new PhD proposals and Early Career Academic capacity building: i. Andrea Jones (regular seminar participant/presenter, bursary recipient), completed her PhD on in 2016: 'Alternative capital, friendship and emotional work: what makes it possible to live in intentional community into older age'. Andrea now has a permanent ECA post and continues to collaborate with seminar series co-applicants. ii. Charlie Fisher (regular seminar participant, bursary recipient on behalf of Oxford CLT), started a PhD with the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes in 2015 to explore issues arising from his participation in the seminars. He is continuing to consult with the co-applicants on his research on 'urban affordable housing delivery models with a focus on CLH'. iii. Pernilla Hagbert (International bursary recipient) attended the first seminar and cited this in her PhD (by publication) completed in 2015: 'Paradoxes and possibilities for a 'green' housing sector? A Swedish case. d. Diffusion of innovation among forming groups and communities of practice: the academic and non-academic co-applicants continue to engage in events and activities intended to promote the diffusion of niche CLH forms, recognizing that these represent a potent seed-bed for innovation and alternative strategies, both social and technological, which are stifled by the mainstream regime. Regular participants of the seminars (bursary recipients) now building affordable homes include; i. YorSpace (James Newson); community led housing for York http://yorspace.org/ YorSpace have been able to set up a cooperative fund-raising and site-purchase entity that is now delivering a housing scheme of 19 affordable cooperatively owned homes at Lowfield Green (a small part of larger council-led scheme to deliver 140 homes on former school site). ii. Oxford CLT and Transition by Design (Charlie Fisher) (and below). iii. ChaCo/Chapeltown Cohousing (Bill Phelps): ChaCo are a pioneering success story and Bill attributes this in part to the impact of the ESRC seminar series, network and knowledge exchange. ChaCo have won £55,000 in grants to help obtain planning permission, they expect over £2 million from capital sales and grants towards shared ownership, and they already have over £400,000 towards our target of £600,000 in loanstock offers. A key part of their financial model is to create affordable homes for local people: around two-thirds of our members will be from the local area; ChaCo will offer rented accommodation at a level that those on benefits or low incomes should be able to afford. iv. Brighton CLT and Cooperative Housing in Brighton & Hove (Peter Clarke); extended ideas from the seminar into Mutual Aid In Sussex (MAIS) to form a regional community housing hub. (iv) Policy and planning: Impact on policy and planning over the past 12 months reflects maturing collaboration across the CLH sector, benefitting from deepening relationships cultivated through the seminar series and associated with further funding (Big Lottery Accelerating Ideas; Power to Change and Nationwide Foundation) supporting instrumental campaigning and efforts to increase sector-wide diffusion and innovation. In particular, the PI and Co-applicants have been influential in efforts to plan and enable regional community housing hubs (the PI with the Tyne and Wear Community Housing Alliance, securing Newcastle University funding for feasibility work to kick-start this local ecology of advice) and the UK Cohousing Network (and activists from OWCH who participated in the seminar series) to lobby the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to set up the Home for Londoner's Community Housing Hub as the first-ever one-stop shop to help Londoners build their own genuinely affordable homes in the capital. Two exemplary developments benefitting from this collaborative approach are RUSS at Lewisham (https://www.theruss.org/) and StART Haringey (http://www.startharingey.co.uk/). At the end of the seminar series we presented our findings in Parliament on the 22nd June 2016 with a launch of a final report 'Cohousing: Shared Futures'. The launch was held in the Boothroyd Room of Portcullis House and was hosted by Richard Bacon MP. We have presented our findings to key people and at key events such that we can claim considerable political and policy impact in the context of major government investment in the CLH sector. Direct contributions include with DCLG and the AAPG National Housing Taskforce on New Sources of Housing Supply. Finally, we continue to generate and disseminate multi-media published outputs, including a word-press blog; highly visual final report and emphasis on 'seeing is believing' first-hand demonstrations of innovation in the field. These novel methods of reaching a wide audience and demonstrating impact have paid off in the wide variety of ways our findings have been taken forward by others, capturing their imagination.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Environment,Other
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Jarvis 2017 piece in The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/a-year-after-jo-coxs-murder-britains-need-for-togetherness-is-stronger-than-ever-77273
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
URL https://theconversation.com/a-year-after-jo-coxs-murder-britains-need-for-togetherness-is-stronger-t...
 
Description Sheffield Housing Conversations, cohousing blog (claimed by South Yorkshire Housing Assocation to be biggest social media item in 2016):
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The Sheffield Conversations cohousing blog was claimed by South Yorkshire Housing Association to be biggest social media item in 2016 as a measure of interest and awareness raising
URL https://thesheffieldhousingconversations.wordpress.com/author/shefhouse/
 
Description seminar series interactive web-site
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
URL http://collaborativehousing.net/
 
Description ESRC IAA
Amount £4,955 (GBP)
Funding ID OSR/0321/IAA1/0009 
Organisation Newcastle University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2018 
End 03/2019
 
Description Collaborative Research on Collaborative Housing- COST Proposal, Europe-wide (supporting applicant) 
Organisation Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Members of the ESRC Seminar Series (Fernandez, Jarvis, Chatterton, Stevenson, UK Cohousing Network) are co-applicants on a current COST proposal, collaborating with European scholars who have actively participated in the seminar series and building upon engagement activities (in France and the Netherlands) by Jarvis and Fernandez in 2012
Collaborator Contribution co-applicants on a COST submission (original submitted/unfunded in 2015 now being prepared for resubmission 2016)
Impact Co-applicants on the COST submission are also contributing papers to a special session on Collaborative Housing at the ENHR 2016 conference in Belfast: Meanwhile, a reminder that the call for papers for the new working group on collaborative housing at ENHR conference 2016 is now open: http://www.enhr2016.com/abstract-submissions/
Start Year 2015
 
Description Helen Jarvis as an invited panellist for CityConversation: 21st Century Cities event around the idea of Family Friendly Cities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A 'Question Time' style panel discussion with questions being posed by event Chair, Tony Naylor from The Guardian. Helen Jarvis represented UK Cohousing (drawing on research and practice) alongside 6 other invited panellists. The panel theme was what makes a Family Friendly city in the 21st century, with Manchester (City Conversations) as the focus of enquiry. This provided an opportunity to look at the real and potential contribution of cohousing to Manchester working towards a family inclusive environment, exploring how this can be much improved with examples of local future projects and inspirational national examples. Helen Jarvis provided inspirational examples of cohousing and how cohousing.org are helping groups realise their goals and potential; and how developing cohousing and community-led neighbourhood design could mean a safer city environment for our children.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://cityco.com/event-type/member-networking-events/
 
Description Parliamentary launch of Cohousing: Shared Futures (key findings from the seminar series), with Richard Bacon MP hosting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Key findings from the ESRC funded seminar series were presented in Parliament on the 22 with the launch of a final report 'Cohousing: Shared Futures'. The launch was held in the Boothroyd Room of Portcullis House (PCH) and was hosted by Richard Bacon MP.
The morning began with a moving and fitting tribute to Jo Cox MP, tragically murdered last week, who had been invited to speak at the event because of her inspirational work with the Hermitage Community Moorings at Hermitage Wharf, in Wapping, where her visions for justice and societal progress translated into a unique form of cooperative living and community support.
The event then included a presentation of findings by the academic team, that can be accessed here; and responses by a panel of distinguished speakers, including:
• Dr Nick Falk, Urbed
• Chris Brown, Executive Chairman, Igloo regeneration
• Sophia de Sousa, Chief Executive, The Glass-House Community Led Design
The report presents the main findings of a wide-ranging two-year knowledge-exchange programme carried out in partnership with the UK Cohousing Network involving cohousing practitioners and academics. The central message is that wider adoption of cohousing and other community-housing approaches could benefit not only residents themselves but the neighbourhoods around them and the wider housing market. The report sets an agenda for policy makers, practitioners and researchers in the years ahead.
The launch event immediately followed the final (6th) seminar in the series, with an audience representing a broad mix of politicians, policy makers, housing industry and non-profit practitioners, as well as activist representatives seeking to influence political support for community-led housing. Conversations with Richard Bacon MP were especially positive and it is promising to note recent developments in this regard, such as the governments announcement on 23rd December of £60 a year to help fund community-led housing projects in England. Discussion also focussed on practical measures of support for local authorities to enable them to promote and support legal obligations to maintain Self and Custom Build Registers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://lselondonhousing.org/2016/06/parliamentary-launch-cohousing-shared-futures/