Regenerating Buildings, Revitalising Communities
Swansea Co-Housing's mission is to provide multi-generational, sustainable and inclusive co-housing. We recognise that people are happier and healthier when they feel a sense of belonging. This in turn promotes care for neighbourhoods and active participation by communities in their local environments.
We are a Community Benefit Society and Community Land Trust with a multi-skilled team whose varied experience encompasses housing projects and businesses including other co-housing schemes, building design and renovation, and project management. Our board members also have broad experience of management of charitable and not-for-profit organisations, regulatory and government work, and optimisation of organisational practices.
What is co-housing? Cohousing is well defined on Wikipedia as "an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each apartment or single family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry, and recreational spaces."
Swansea Co Housing, in collaboration with the Wales Co-operative Centre www.wales.coop is currently researching opportunities to develop community focused, sustainable and congenial living spaces in the Swansea area, which respect surrounding and pre-existing built and natural environments, and provide high quality homes for residents of any generation and background.
At a time of escalating house prices, many people have abandoned their dream of being able to afford a home and are hostage to high rents and, at best, anonymous housing and at worst, social decline. It is evident however, that in areas where people own their own homes, there is often a sense of pride in the appearance and upkeep of homes and the streets feel cleaner and safer. Home ownership is often associated with a sense of connection and commitment to an area, along with a greater sense of belonging. These are important foundations for mental wellbeing and social cohesion.
Swansea Co-Housing members believe that it is important for there to be a variety of ownership options available to people at all stages of life. The co-housing model comes with an understanding that having a secure home isn't about making a profit. Ideally, it is about having a friendly place to thrive. On the other hand, when circumstances change and a resident wants to move elsewhere, having generated a deposit to buy their next home can be transformational for quality of life.
To this end, we are setting up a Community Land Trust, so that the value of people's homes can be linked to income levels rather than property speculation. Along with this, we are exploring a variety of cooperative financial models including Mutual Home Ownership, where residents own shares in their homes, Cooperative Rent to Buy and the concept that people with capital can help the community provide security for mortgages.
We're not just about ownership, though. Young people may want to rent a space in a friendly community because they share the vision and want the option to travel or move with work. Similarly, having overseas travellers or students renting for shorter periods brings fresh energy to a community. Increasingly, people in their later years also seek smaller, more flexible homes. Having flexible housing design and ownership options means that homes can expand and contract as people's needs change.
In an increasingly polarised and segregated society younger and older people often don't meet each other anymore which results in stereotyping.These are the groups that also report substantial loneliness .
Many extended families do not live near each other. Having "adopted grandparents" increases families well being and promotes children's emotional and educational development . Reports indicate positive mental outcomes for older people.
Retired people have knowledge ,skills and contacts to share similarly younger ages have skills that can inform older people. Cross generational discussions can stimulate interest in the renovation of historic community buildings for co housing.The generations sharing food growing methods can contribute to food ,climate and environmental sustainability.
Intergenerational schemes can offer reduced rents or earning opportunities for supporting elderly people.Many young people are unable to access affordable accommodation and many older people homes are unsuitable.
Involving people in the design has positive outcomes with reduced energy bills but still providing self contained accommodation . Providing shared spaces encourages interaction amongst residents and the wider community.
As the world faces a plethora of environmental challenges from climate change to resource shortages and plastic waste, Swansea Co Housing places high importance on the sustainability of our projects and communities.
Our approach may be project dependent on a case-by-case basis, but we will always endeavour to minimise environmental and ecological impacts over the medium to long term while providing high quality living spaces. Building materials and methods of construction will be considered with respect to their embodied greenhouse gas, expected lifespan and end of life impacts, renewable energy generation and sustainable infrastructure will be incorporated where suitable and feasible, and we strive to provide for communities with relatively low environmental impact through provision of appropriate facilities.
We are committed to respecting significant built heritage where we encounter it in our projects, and believe Swansea's Victorian buildings to be crucial to the city's sense of place, as a tangible link to its past and development. Our objective with any such building for which we are responsible is to bring it up to modern requirements and improve its environmental performance to the extent possible without irretrievably altering its character or harming the long term health of its structure.
Appropriate treatment of historic fabric, including the use of suitable materials and techniques, is essential to its future survival. Their having been largely lost after the Great War, there has been something of a resurgence in the UK recent years of traditional skills and the use of building limes, not least due to the tireless efforts of organisations like the Society for the Protection of Ancieng Buildings (SPAB). Where we have the opportunity, we intend to assist with enhancing the pool of suitable expertise within and around Swansea by partnering with other organisations to provide training and experience.
We aspire to extend benefit to local communities and the built environment of Wales by using our projects alongside professional partners to provide and facilitate training and opportunities. In particular, our mission is to help increase the pool of talent in south Wales in areas of conservation building work, craftsmanship and novel/eco construction methods, based on the latest understanding, techniques and materials.
We believe that such opportunities should be fully open, providing opportunities for a diverse community of tradespeople, and as part of this advocate for the increased role of women in construction.
As we grow as an organisation, we also hope to be able to help the growth of talent in other areas, across the range of our operations.