SOMA Housing Co-Op News
Community Led Housing
Oxfordshire Community Foundation hosted a public "Focus Group" event on the 5th October in the Old Fire Station Oxford, promoting "Community Led Housing". This was an important opportunity for people to find out what the term means and also for them to feed information about their personal experience and knowledge of Community Led Housing into the pot of knowledge being gathered together.
Here is a link to Oxfordshire Community Foundation web site page about Community Led Housing in Oxford. This is a rather new descriptive term which has recently emerged and which describes the current interests of small groups of people who are attempting to have more control over the types of homes they wish to live in. SOMA Housing Co-Operative Ltd. has been plugging away - advocating this type of development model for many years, seeming in our minds to be a more preferable method of thinking when the intent is providing suitable accommodation for anyone who is disabled. This approach is preferable to SOMA Housing Co-Operative Ltd as many of our members are disadvantaged because they are unable to develop their career because of a lack of suitable work space at home, or near by. Often through being on a low income, they are unable to purchase a more suitable property in the housing market place and are forced to rent property at a high price and commute to a different place of work. SOMA has been a member of Homes for Oxford, a local pressure group which also promote this simple idea of homes designed by the people who will live in them. This alliance includes Oxfordshire Community Land Trust
Transition by Design a local architects practice, Kindling Housing Co-Op
Dragon Fly Housing Co-Operative as well as the local Co-Housing group . All of these groups are supporters of "OPAL", One Planet Affordable Living concept.
The Oxfordshire Community Foundation and Community First Oxford have been engaged in discussions with Homes for Oxford regarding OPAL and they have funds available and want to use them by assisting local grass roots groups achieve their aims and objectives and in doing so help alleviate some of the obstacles which are contributing to the local housing crisis.
The meeting was attended by Alison Palmer-Smith (Secretary) and Mark Jackson (Treasurer). A report will be available shortly.
Homes for Oxford
Quote. "There are a growing number of people engaged in creating community-led mixed tenure permanently and genuinely affordable housing in Oxford. A number of community-led housing organisations have recently combined to form Homes for Oxford (HfO) to focus on securing some of the few remaining sites within the city, to ensure the maximum proportion of permanently and genuinely affordable homes is delivered. The long-term vision is to create a sector of such homes which are available to local people for both genuinely affordable rent and genuinely affordable ownership, thus enabling communities to thrive and endure. A combination of the Community Land Trust model and Cooperatives will be used to ensure permanent affordability."
Here is a link to the Homes for Oxford web site
More details about the projects described below can be found on the Homes for Oxford web site.
The Irving Building is in East Oxford and is one of the buildings on the site of an East Oxford Primary School in Hendred Street (?) off Magdalen Road. The current project has stagnated again owing to stiff competitive elements using questionable tactics in order to win the contract to purchase the site for their clients. In this case the sale to OCLT has been challenged on teh grounds that as a charity the sellers must accept the "best price" and in selling to OCLT this would not be the case. Anyways the Charity Commissioners have now been dragged in in order to squeeze out their definition of the term "Best Price". The OCLT plan for the building is to convert it into affordable housing and offices for community use. In line with the groups "OPAL" policy, some of these flats/apartments could be "social housing", available at affordable rents. It is hoped that SOMA will be able to manage some of these flats for oury
members, without SOMA taking on a full construction project. So fingers crossed, and if you are interested in this location and consider that it might be suitable for your housing needs, then you should state your interest at the next meeting.
Wolvercote Paper Mill Site
Prior to interest in the Irving Building, Homes for Oxford had put in a £16 million bid for the site of the old paper mill in Wolvercote. The plan was to build 190 affordable homes and including rentable social housing. This could have been great for SOMA, turning up and being included in someone elses plans. However, life isn't like that as you know. The facts are that once Oxford University (who own the site) discovered others were interested in purchasing, they offered the site to their friends in construction who made an unreserved offer of £20 million. So the Homes for Oxford bid failed and those involved have gone away to rethink the project as the new price screws any budgeting and costings previously developed.
A further development is the discovery of a potentially very polluted industrial waste dump on the site of the proposed development. So while hoping to raise £4 million more from the sale to one of their mates, in real terms the owner of this site could be liable for more than £4 million worth of toxic ground clean up before any other uses can be made of this part of the site. The fact is that getting involved in a toxic dump cleaning exercise is definitely much too much for Oxford PC Solutions to take onboard before we could build somewhere to live.
This is one of the earlier house building projects taken up by OCLT. Unfortunately, stiff competition from other developers and strange occurrence's in high places means that this project is still not complete, but will be soon hopefully.
Oxfordshire Community Land Trust
As mentioned earlier Oxfordshire Community Land Trust are a group of people interested in providing land which is protected for providing housing. Their are a number of reasons why protecting land in Oxfordshire is necessary. Probably the first action I am aware of was to prevent the Highways Department from building the M40 motorway through the middle of Ottmore, which is now a protected nature reserve available for public use. Certainly the group has widened it's remit somewhat and is currently backing several affordable "OPAL" housing projects in Oxford. OCLT provide a driving and unifying force, as well as on tap professionals from local government, housing, sustainable design and development companies as well as other industries and businesses. Keep an eye out for their meetings which are open to anyone wanting to get involved.
Other projects of OCLT include the Dean Court Co-Operative sustainable development which is situated in Cumnor Village, another is Community Led Homes and another potential build at Eynsham Road. Visit the OCLT web site for more details.
Here is a link to the Oxfordshire Community Land Trust web site
It is vitally important that those members wishing to be involved do come along to have their say.