No landlord, no mortgage.

The heart of this blog was to be of experiences – good, bad and ugly – of living in housing co-ops. Unfortunately I no longer live in an independent co-op and my efforts to get other co-ops to contribute and communicate haven’t been very successful. So, not giving up just yet, I’m keeping this blog alive with general housing and co-op related stuff.

The original idea was to invite other co-ops’ members to communicate, to have their say here, with a view to painting a picture of the what, the who, and the why of housing co-op life. Ultimately, the aim is to foster more communication between housing co-ops’ members – individuals, collectives, locally, nationally, internationally – not in an official formal way but more as an exchange of real-world experiences and ideas direct from members/residents.

The big idea is for me to visit as many co-ops and communities as possible and blog about it all here.

A bit about the London co-ops I lived in…

In 2004 I came back to London from a year in Barcelona to finish my last year at university and only planned to stick around til the end of my studies, but I moved into Sanford Housing co-operative, and I got comfortable. London is a huge playground for me, so many distractions, so many friends, and I really got to like my new home. I lived in Sanford for just over 5 years.

Sanford is a bit of an oasis in the huge dirty urban sprawl of London. No doubt pretty much everyone living there will agree it’s kind of special. It’s practically a community. A whole street of 14 houses and a block of 6 flatlets, with an average of 8 people in each house. Yep, that’s more than a hundred single people – musicians, artists, students, punks, ex-punks, hippies, dippies, yippies, professionals and, of course, a few ES40s.

In the years I spent there I saw a few major projects completed including a Carbon60 project which won an award – we got rid of the gas supply and installed solar tubes on the roof and solid fuel burners for the hot water and heating, we also self-built a huge bike shed from old railway sleepers, a yoga deck in the garden, refitted the kitchens, started composting, built raised beds and grew some veg, staged plays and held big outdoor parties, and managed to get positive coverage in the local press.

There was talk of building something in the car park, like a straw bale communal space that could also be office space and/or community centre. I say ‘there was talk’ because even though the idea had been mooted a few times before, brought up in meetings and researched, there were never any concrete plans. But that’s how the other projects started. Things don’t happen very quickly, I suspect it’s much the same in other co-ops in general. There’s a certain co-op pace, a wee bit more relaxed than most. There were plans for a bike shed for years, and not much happened about it til Cristo, a student architect, moved in.

When I first arrived at Sanford I was really impressed. I moved in in early December and by January a few of us were sent off to Wales to the Centre for Alternative Technology for a weekend of alternative building classes. But it was a couple of years before the Carbon60 project was actually started.

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