We’d like to begin this, our second newsletter, by hoping this finds you well and coping with the changes we are all facing during the present coronavirus lockdown. For Hope Cohousing, this has meant our weekly meetings are now held virtually – a steep learning curve for some of us, experimenting with new skills and discovering new ways to communicate. It’s impossible to predict what effect this crisis will have on the timescale of our plans into the future. We have plenty of work to get on with to keep our project moving forward, and for the moment recognise that the priority of local and national government officials must be focused on the coronavirus crisis.
On a happier note, we can report that we have made good progress since our first newsletter of December 2019.
Towards the end of 2019, we submitted a bid to the Innovate UK ISCF Healthy Aging initiative. It was an exciting and far-reaching proposal for the establishment of a blueprint to help others set up cohousing communities, both here in Orkney and in other rural and island communities.
We were thrilled to be selected to attend for an interview. The bid was submitted as a partnership between Hope Cohousing, the OIC and Robert Gordon University and six representatives from the partners travelled to London in February. Making the presentation and fielding questions to a panel of experts was both an exciting and somewhat daunting experience. Ultimately our bid was not successful and though disappointing, we recognise that much of the work put into preparing this bid will stand us in good stead for our project’s future development.
The trip to London gave us the opportunity to hold useful discussions with Owen Jarvis, CEO of the UK Cohousing Network. We were also able to visit OWCH, a long-held ambition for every member of HCH! As the UK’s trailblazing senior cohousing community, (residents moved into their homes in 2016), the Older Women’s Cohousing community in North London has been a source of inspiration for us. Elli, Sacha and Jenny spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon being shown around and learning what it is really like to live in a senior cohousing community.
Rural Housing Scotland Conference
Another highlight in February was an invitation to attend the Rural Housing Scotland annual conference in Birnam, Perthshire. Jenny and Cath travelled to this event. On the Thursday, our project was one of three projects featured in a community learning exchange. The following day, Jenny, alongside our architect, Gokay Deveci, gave a presentation to the main conference. For us, this weekend represented a fantastic chance to tell a wider audience about Hope Cohousing and also to meet and learn from others working on community-led housing projects across Scotland.
Jenny Rambridge speaking at the Rural Housing Scotland conference
We reached a significant milestone in March with the submission of planning permission to Orkney Islands Council.
We have already held initial meetings with local building contractors to brief them about the project and we are working towards issuing tenders.
The project’s Feasibility report was submitted to the Rural Housing Fund in February and our task now is to complete our application to their Main Fund. This will form our main source of funding, but we also continue to explore other possibilities including discussions with Triodos Bank and the Ecology Building Society. We are also investigating community shares as a source of funding.
With best wishes from all at Hope Cohousing.