Alternative home sweet home

There are many ways to provide housing outside the simple rent or buy culture that dominates society, write Paul Chatterton, Larch Maxey and Jenny Pickerill

April 1, 2007
5 min read


Paul ChattertonPaul Chatterton is a member of the Trapese Collective and set up the MA in Activism and Social Change at Leeds University

Regular stories of rising house prices and a buoyant housing rental market may seem like good news for homeowners, but there are increasing numbers of people for whom the ability to rent, let alone buy, a house is out of reach. This has been exacerbated by the reduction in council housing stock through privatisation. But people have always experimented with alternative housing solutions. Here we detail a few options that are being practised in Britain. All deal with the three C’s: cost, community, and control.

Squatting

Squatting is usually the cheapest housing option and there are residential squats in many cities. Squatting is still legal and squatters have legal rights if they can show evidence of residence in an unoccupied building. However, it can also be a rather temporary solution, especially if the landlord decides to skip the niceties.

Low impact development

An option at the more affordable end of the self-build scale is a low impact development (LID). A roundhouse made from wood and mud (cob walls) with a grass roof, such as Tony’s at Brithir Mawr in Wales, only costs £3,000 to build. It is also self-sufficient, using solar and wind power for electricity and a wood stove for heat.

Lammas Low Impact Initiatives is establishing a low impact village in Wales. Working with Pembrokeshire’s innovative LID policy, Lammas plans a settlement of 20 small holdings on 175 acres. The eco-village will showcase a range of highly sustainable building and living solutions, with the Stage 1 planning application to be submitted in April 2007.

Lammas is a co-operative industrial and provident society (IPS) and is launching public shares in the project. These offer everyone the opportunity to invest in building the low impact movement as the money raised will help fund not only the Pembrokeshire development but also a network of projects across the UK.

Low impact buildings are generally constructed out of onsite and waste materials. The Brighton Earthship, for example, is entirely heated by the sun and was made from tyres rammed full of earth, with waste cans and bottles filling the gaps between the tyres.

Housing co-operatives

Such solutions offer more than just low cost alternatives. Key to their aim is to reinvigorate a sense of community in the ways in which we live. Not everyone has the time or desire to build their own home and finding land in urban areas can be problematic.

With this in mind, housing cooperatives are increasingly popular in British cities. They allow collective management of a property by the tenants and for the building to be owned in common. To raise the money to buy a building housing co-ops also become IPS’s that issue public loan stock. A long running example is the Cornerstone housing co-op in Leeds.

Co-housing

Co-housing is an arrangement whereby private dwellings are organised to encourage collaborative living while maintaining individual space. The houses share communal facilities such as workshops, open space, a playground and often a community building where residents can meet and share meals as they wish.

Cars tend to be kept to the edge of the site to create a more ‘people friendly’ space. The design thus encourages, but does not impose, interaction and community ties. The Springhill cohousing project in Stroud is one example; another is being established in Lancaster.

Diggers and dreamers

A good place to start with any of these options is to read Diggers and Dreamers: The guide to communal living, which lists most ongoing communities in Britain.

Community control

What is crucial to all these examples is that the control of the property remains not just with those living in it but with the wider community. These approaches challenge the profit-generating process of private ownership. This ability to control the spaces in which we live ranges from collective management to democratic ownership.

A tenant management organisation is where tenants form a management co-operative, a committee or a not-for-profit company to make an agreement with the property owner. This agreement can include taking care of maintenance in return for reduced rent or direct payment from the owner.

A more radical approach to ownership is to establish a community land trust. Land is moved permanently from private ownership into a trust for the benefit of the community. As the land can never then be sold, its value and appreciation does not threaten its use for community projects such as agriculture, workshops or residential dwellings. It is a form of democratic ownership by the local community, who consequently are able to use it in sustainable ways (see, for example, Stroud Community Agriculture.Paul Chatterton set up a housing co-op in Leeds and is involved in setting up a co-housing project in the north of England; Larch Maxey lives off-grid in a wooden chalet and is a co-founder and core group member of Lammas; Jenny Pickerill is building an eco-house – see www.autonomousgeographies.org


Paul ChattertonPaul Chatterton is a member of the Trapese Collective and set up the MA in Activism and Social Change at Leeds University


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank

The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank


34