Buying the house next door and expanding our Co-op!

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November 23, 2020 by skylarkhousingcoop

About 3 weeks ago, two of us went door-knocking to explain to our neighbours why we have what looks like a for sale sign up outside our house. It isn’t, in fact, a for sale sign but a #PUSHBACKBRIGHTON sign that reads “Homes Not for Profit.” The sign was installed for us by Brighton and Hove Community Land Trust (BHCLT) who are campaigning to raise awareness of community-led housing in Brighton & Hove. They wanted to highlight our home as a space that provides affordable, secure, community-led housing. Find out more about their campaign at: https://bhclt.org.uk/pushbackbrighton/

The first house we visited was, unsurprisingly, next door. Our neighbour, Pat, listened patiently as we passionately explained about the campaign. Then she asked: “Would they be interested in buying property? I don’t know if you know but I’m trying to sell my house and not having much luck…” I explained that BHCLT wouldn’t be looking to buy property, but that they might support a community-led project to buy…

“Hang on a minute!” I thought… “We’re a community-led project! Maybe they’ll support us to buy it! Next door is ideal for our expansion in so many ways…”

So, as you can imagine, the last few weeks has been a frenzy of meetings, analysing spreadsheets, making phone calls and generally trying to stem our excitement.

BHCLT have been incredibly helpful, supporting us to figure out if it’s a viable option for us. Lots of ideas have been flying around about how to maximise communal space (which we have notoriously historically lacked, at some points squeezing 10+ people and 3 dogs into our 3mx2m living room…), while ensuring we have enough rooms occupied and the rent coming in to cover a second mortgage.

We had the architect who worked on the Bunker Self-build Housing Co-operative project (another Brighton-based co-op), Raph, pay us a visit a few days ago to discuss building a ’roundhouse’ in the garden, which would sit between the 2 houses and function as a meeting/events space for the local co-op network. We have a few designs in mind. I’m hoping for a reciprocal roof to represent our reciprocity in co-operation and some glass bottle walls in the interest of aesthetics and recycling.

We’ve also learned that there is huge potential for a loft conversion because of the height of the roof on Pat’s house (it may forever be known as Pat’s house… I wonder if she’ll be happy to have a co-op named after her…) which would provide space for 2 more rooms and another bath/shower room.

This is an ambitious project but it’s all looking achievable if we can raise the the loan stock we need. We’re going to be looking to raise between £40 000 and £100 000 to complete this work. It will mean recruiting between 6 or 7 new members, so watch this space if you’d like to apply to be a member.

And if you’re interested in making an ethical investment, please see our ‘Invest!’ page for more info and a breakdown of what your money would be spent on.

 

 

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