Co-Housing

North Wales

Quakers

 

Crynwyr

Gogledd Cymru

An image of the Quakers' bi-lingual symbol.

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On 21 November 2016 I gave a public lecture at Bangor University entitled ‘Housing – or Homes? An Introduction to Co Housing, as it could be applied to Gwynedd’.

 

I highlighted the particular problems here in Gwynedd where we have the highest proportion of old domestic property in the UK, in a climate that makes construction particularly vulnerable to damp, and complicates the challenge of making it energy-efficient. We also have sparsely scattered houses off grid in many areas. Fuel poverty is common, at between 15% and 30% of households in almost all wards. The population is older than the UK average, and household size is shrinking so that dwellings are often under-occupied; at the same time, house-prices are well above the affordability of the average local income, with intergenerational injustice, a situation aggravated by second homes. Lastly, we know that our eco-footprint per person at 9 – 14 tonnes of carbon dioxide (a proxy for all kinds of over-consumption) far exceeds the safe average eco-footprint for the planet of just over 1 tonne. The Earth Overshoot day in 2016 was calculated to be 8 August. We have loneliness and isolation.

 

Co-housing is a way of living that builds up the skills of sharing and co-operating, and while mostly new-build, it can be applied to conversion of existing buildings. In the talk I looked at aspects of the current situation that we can change, if we work together: by sharing and pooling resources, we could still have access to equipment and facilities such as cars, washing machines, and guest rooms, yet reduce our personal consumption. By pooling resources not only could we afford the most efficient equipment, we would have to negotiate co-operatively, thus re-learning trust in each other and rebuilding community.

 

Human Geography were our generous hosts at Bangor University, but unfortunately, there were bad storms and some flooding that evening so the turnout was low. There were 30 people present but few stayed for the coffee and biscuits provided afterwards, and none signed up to explore further the possibility of applying Co-housing and Transition principles to Gwynedd’s housing stock.

 

Frances Voelcker ( 26.02.17)

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A secure home is a human right. In the UK, housing has become confused with income generation, so that investors profit from peoples’ housing need. Meanwhile, the home component of the average UK household is many time what the planet can sustain long-term.

 

Frances Voelcker sees co-housing as a way of reducing the eco-footprint of householders without unattractive loss of privacy or comfort (by sharing cars, tools, guestrooms, social spaces). At the same time, co-housing develops community (through co-operation, providing mutual support, learning social skills and disciplines.) Co-housing will not suit everyone, but for many people of all ages, it could provide a congenial place to live, with private dwellings and safe shared facilities and outdoor spaces.

 

Frances attended an introductory course on Co-housing at Woodbrooke in 2015, has purchased and is happy to share several core books, visited Lancaster Co-Housing in 2016, and recently gave a talk on the topic to Sustainable Denbighshire.

 

Frances Voelcker

 

 

Economic Justice Group

Co-Housing