Hackney cohousing project
The following is a blog by Cllr Philip Glanville, Cabinet Member for Housing.
Having worked very closely with the Hackney Cohousing Group (HCP) for over five years, it is with great sadness that the Council has now come to the stage where it can no longer move forward with this potentially innovative housing scheme.
We were first approached by HCP in 2009/10 to support the delivery of a small new development of discounted owner-occupied homes. This which would have included shared communal spaces such as gardens, common rooms and workshops.
Myself and council colleagues shared HCP’s vision and worked hard with them to try to make it a reality. This was alongside our many other challenging housing initiatives to try to address housing need in the borough, in a climate of ever-increasing funding cuts and restrictions imposed by central government. These initiatives include assisting and trying to find permanent homes for the 2,300 families currently in temporary accommodation, our pioneering housing regeneration new-build programme, and increasing the number of properties for shared ownership and intermediate housing.
There were many significant and practical challenges to be overcome with the HCP scheme, including evidence of real funding, its composition (both in terms of tenure mix and eligibility), a concrete delivery plan, and the identification of a suitable development partner. Five years on, many of these significant questions still remain and have not been resolved despite the best efforts of both parties.
During our time working with HCP to make their proposal a reality, the Council has been holding a site at Albion Grove. This site has great potential for housing and, unfortunately, without a viable proposition to justify the large taxpayer subsidy required to make the HCP project work, we can no longer justify leaving it unused. Despite the best efforts of both parties, agreeing a financially workable proposal has simply not been possible. The Council will now look at alternative uses for the site which can support our wider work in meeting the pressing need for housing in the borough. The site will not be sold.
We would stress that despite this scheme now not moving forward, the Council maintains an appetite to explore new and innovative ways to provide housing in Hackney. However, these approaches must work in ways that meet the borough’s pressing and wide-ranging housing needs, reflect the best use of our shrinking resources, be in some measure scalable and replicable and, above all else, be deliverable.