Housing Co-ops, Affordable Homes & Permaculture

Tony Rollinson
Tuesday, 2nd August 2011

Are not-for-profit co-operative living initiatives becoming a workable option for people who cannot afford to get onto the property ladder? Permaculture is playing a vital role in helping establish one such community – and others beyond that.

Over the weekend, a piece in The Guardian by Rupert Jones looked at the virtues of not-for-profit co-operative living.

A diverse group of eight people in Walthamstow east London have set up The Drive Housing Co-op. They have moved into a former children's care home and importantly obtained planning permission for their change of use of the building. They wish to face the very real challenges of living sustainably in a large urban centre and they are using permaculture principles and ethics in their design.

They plan to introduce insulation, energy efficiency, install renewable energy with the aim to eventually go off-grid. Members of the household will be designing the garden with their eye firmly toward sustainability, water capture, edible landscaping, etc. One member of the team is a permaculture teacher and part of the future could involve the garden being more productive as the community learns together. 

Over the years Permaculture magazine has featured many differing types of co-operative living. Community co-operatives, such as Ben Law and the Lodsworth Larder initiative have rescued their local shops, pubs and other amenities. There are new groups popping-up, each with different needs. A recent classified advertisement from a group similar to the east London group above were advertising for like-minds in Hampshire (Permaculture 67 page 78) – their aim is to live more sustainably, self-build and share the land communally.

The Drive Housing Co-op group are looking for more people to join them and they are looking for investors. As with the New York Times piece at the end of last week it is another positive representation of permaculture in the mainstream press, and, as they tell us, it has already led to them connecting up with all sorts of new and "lovely" people.

Further resources:

Radical Routes a network of housing co-ops