Winter 2019/20

We’ve been busy!

Our outreach work to make our group more diverse and more representative of the older lesbian community in London has paid off! We have welcomed several new black and minority ethnic members to the group. There are now 18 of us, for 16 units, out of the total 25 we are looking to develop. We will recruit further once we have a better idea of the likely end-size and configuration of the project, but in the meantime we will be inviting some of our friends and supporters to become ‘associate members’ and they will be next in line for consideration once we have a contract  with a developer in place.

We’ve had a lot of work to do this year with Housing Associations, Local Authorities and the GLA Community-led housing hub, but we’ve had time for fun as well. There’s a burgeoning sporty subgroup who’ve been playing table tennis and badminton, and an amateur boxing star!

We’ve had a few days and nights out as well, including a picnic in Regents Park in the summer, and a games night in a Tottenham pub.

More recently we joined in the 40th anniversary celebrations of Southall Black Sisters, for an evening of stirring poetry from survivors of domestic violence, with responses from published poets including Jackie Kay and Miss Yankee.

And we’ve just had our end of year lunch which includes Secret Solstice Sister – a Secret Santa/Lucky Dip hybrid where we all buy a present and stick it in a bag and take turns to pick one out. It’s amazing what you can get for a fiver.

We’re pleased to say that this year we have been in discussion with L & Q, one of the largest UK housing associations. Through their strategic partnership work they have helped us to develop our project. We have been exploring sites with L & Q and have been meeting with them monthly to develop the project – with workshops on land and planning, drawing up more detailed design briefs, planning ‘routes to development’ and 30-year allocation policies! Although there is currently a pause on development, L&Q are providing ongoing support and we are also seeking funding ourselves to help in the development of the project.

We are in discussion with several local authorities with a view to finding a site. This year Waltham Forest has been extremely helpful and supportive and helped identify potential sites which we have explored. In June this summer we took part in their Housing Strategy and Housing Compact launch.

We haven’t found anything that is quite right yet, but we hope to explore one of the WF sites further in 2020. We are also talking to Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Haringey and have looked at sites in Newham and Hackney. We will keep on looking across boroughs and try to raise funds to secure a site. If anyone knows of vacant sites in East and North East London please let us know. And even better if you know of keen funders!

We are grateful for the ongoing support of the GLA’s London Community Led Housing Hub. Hub members Lev Kerrimol, Rowan Mackay and Gemma Holyoak have been generous with their time and expertise and the Hub has provided Maria Brenton (of Older Women’s Cohousing OWCH fame) as our adviser. The Hub’s support has enabled us to develop our work with housing providers – in fact we would not be where we are now if it wasn’t for their help. They funded a day’s training for the whole of LOLC with OWCH to understand the development and running of such a cohousing project. A brilliant, inspiring day. The Hub also supported tours of the OWCH development for a number of L&Q staff who are working with us, for them to experience first-hand a wonderful cohousing scheme for older women.

Through the hub we have linked to Community Led Homes who have published an interesting report recently, including an interview with one of LOLC members

The Hub has set up a group of specialists, including Pollard Thomas Edward architects, Innisfree and WECH Housing Associations, National Custom and Self Build Association and the local borough of Waltham Forest, who have advised us bi-annually on our plans. We cannot thank them enough for their generosity.

In the new year, we will develop our ‘associate membership’, continue to look for suitable sites, work with L&Q and develop our funding strategy with the GLA/CLH hub, to help embark on some serious fundraising. We welcome your ideas and suggestions.

Happy Solstice, Chanukah, Xmas and New Year to you all. Thanks again for all your support and look forward to working with you more in 2020. A whole new decade!

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