Here’s a guest blog with some interesting observations from our good friend and supporter, Jane Hustwit.
Discovering the remarkable world of Yorspace
Over the last few weeks, I’ve discovered the remarkable world of Yorspace. Little did I know what I was getting into when I chaired the launch of their Community Share Offer back in September! On reflection, that’s not strictly true since their proposition was one that appealed to me in all sorts of ways.
To remind you, Yorspace is a community-led housing cooperative creating 19 permanently affordable and environmentally sustainable homes at Lowfield Green in west York. These have been designed, and will be managed, by the new community of residents.
What I hadn’t expected was the welcome, the generosity, the openness and serious commitment of everyone involved, whether potential resident or Board Director. It’s been a fine antidote to national political madness and the greyest November I can recall. My belief in cooperative activity has always been strong, but this new relationship has been inspiring.
Loving Yorspace values
I find Yorspace fascinating. Created five years ago by James Newton and Susannah Bird, it is an intentional community, a planned residential development designed from the start with a high degree of interaction and teamwork.
In practice the Lowfield residents have chosen to buy homes and live alongside others with whom they share a common purpose and core values. And they want to live those values full time. They know that resources and responsibilities will be shared when the houses have been completed, and that interactions between neighbours will be encouraged, both by those living there and by the physical design of the site. They understand and are committed to this.
Based on a strong organisational structure
Underpinning this is a strong organisational structure, so for the Lowfield development there is a clear structure of connected teams, known as working circles, each with a specific focus, and carefully coordinated.
One circle deals with finance, another with outreach and communications, another with heating/energy systems, and so on. The circles work alongside the Directors (some of whom will be residents too) and are supported by a high-quality team of professional consultants who fill in any skills gaps. Most importantly, the residents are “doing it for themselves” to determine how the development evolves.
The organisation has been severely put to the test in the past three months, with the launch of its first Community Share Issue, but made a success of it, having reached the minimum raise this week. You can still invest, if you’re quick – deadline is Monday 2nd December.
Some thoughts from residents
Recently I talked with some residents, all of whom were involved in the working circles.
What attracted you to Yorspace and Lowfield Green?
- “The mix of personal and communal space”
- “Being known to a group of people, in an everyday way”
- “Support for me as a carer”
- “A neighbourhood with fluid boundaries”
Has anything surprised you?
- “My own personal development – I can now tell the others when I am low, they respond and care”
- “I’ve grown in confidence; people trust me to do stuff”
- “What hard work it is! So many different things have to be done…”
- “…but, at the same time, it’s so worthwhile – and fun!”
What delights you?
- “The designs, the prospect of a home that isn’t cold or damp”
- “The perpetual affordability”
- “The idea of kids playing out, safely”
- “The understanding that residents should (and do) take a break if the tasks feel overwhelming”
… and some final thoughts
- “Yorspace meetings feel like hanging out with friends”
- “I can’t imagine not doing this now, stopping never occurs to me”
- “The idea of buying a house, privately, on my own now feels bizarre”
- “And again, such hard work but so worth it!”
If, like me, you’re fascinated and excited in equal measure by Yorspace, find out more by reading more on this website or invest by going to https://www.ethex.org.uk/YorSpace