End of the vision

Cohousing Woodside’s dreams finally came to an end in July 2016, and, sadly, we are no longer operating.

This website originally documented the endeavours of a group of cohousing activists committed to creating a community on the Woodside Square site.  We spent five years on this project, having initially identified the former hospital site before it came on the market, subsequently negotiating with Hanover Housing Association that part of the site should be developed for cohousing.  We supported Hanover locally in gaining planning permission – a lengthy process; we participated in early workshops run by the architects and waited while Hanover tendered for contractors to build the development.

Over the years the burgeoning group gelled while working out every phase of cohousing life including shared values and skills, the machinations of a car-share scheme, mutual support aspirations and boundaries.  More practically, we chose our preferred self-contained dwellings and poured over plans for our Common House, commenting on the proposed allotment and planting around the Woodside Grove blocks.cohousing-woodside-a5_postcard3-1

cohousing-woodside-a5_postcard3-2The group met once a month in Haringey, spending as much time in recruiting new members as in business discussions.  Task groups spearheaded efforts into community building, optimal legal structures and negotiated detailed financial arrangements to acquire the defining feature of cohousing communities – its Common House.  All these discussions were carried out while we scrutinised, over the years, a series of putative indicative figures from Hanover covering purchase prices, service charge model, cost of parking spaces, etc.

In January 2016 the developers finally launched their Woodside Square sales.  To our amazement the launch prices represented a 35% increase over the 2015 indicative prices around which individuals had budgeted for their move.  Many members were shocked to realise that this put their chosen unit way out of reach despite an early-bird discount incentive.  As the number of members dropped, the apportioned cost of our Common House became correspondingly more expensive for those that held fast.

News of the prices coincided with uncertainty in the London property market fuelled by fears of the outcome of the EU referendum, and some members found that the potential sale value of their own homes was not achieving the amounts they had hoped for.  Disappointed that their efforts and ambitions should be frustrated by the vagaries of factors beyond their control more members left.

Reluctantly the residual membership recognised that Cohousing Woodside was no longer a viable venture.

By July 2016, only one member had reserved a flat on the site where we had hoped to establish our community. Subsequently, one other ex-cohouser and a second couple have reserved flats on the development. So there will be at least four of us who will make our homes in Woodside Square.

What became of the Common House? At the time of writing (February 2017), the sales literature refers to it as ‘the common house’. Hanover intends to run it as a hired communal facility for the benefit of all Woodside Square residents.  Its location does enable us to establish the kind of hub where we will be able to socialise with neighbours and share activities, much as we had envisaged as a cohousing group.  However, all of this is in the future and we hope that it will come to pass.

Cohousing Woodside Ltd, the legal entity set up to structure our project, will cease to exist as a company in 2017.   Some of us continue to search for alternative cohousing ventures, some have joined other groups. We have all gained from the experience of working towards our cohousing goal and regret that we have been priced out of achieving it.

At some stage we shall be publishing here a summary of “Lessons learnt” in, how to or how not to, initiate a cohousing project in the UK.  Watch this space.

In the meantime if you are over 55 and are looking for a well-designed home, built to lifetime home standards, on a quiet leafy site in Muswell Hill, North London, you might take a look at the website http://woodsidesquare.co.uk/ and go along to the sales suite in Woodside Avenue. We still hope to build a friendly community there, though it won’t quite be intentional ready-made cohousing.