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London Lab #6, Tuesday 25th October

Co-habitation: housing and communities.

Dear pragmatic optimists,

Two weeks ago, we met for LOPO lab #6 where we explored questions and solutions around the current housing crisis in London. We went deeper too, sharing thoughts and feelings about cohabitation, community, ownership and what makes a home.

Thanks to Will Mercer from the Trampery who kicked off the evening with his perspective on positive developments to protect creative districts in London by combining living and working spaces. He shared information and insights about the development of Fish Island Village in Hackney Wick while touching on the LOPO principles of ‘Engineering Serendipity’ and ‘Playing the Long Game’.

I have the privilege to live in an incredible housing trust, it has enabled me to stay in London and devote time to the things I care about – such as LOPO! I pitched the rare model of my cooperative housing trust. Each member owns a pound share in the house that they pay to join and get back when they leave. The house cannot be sold, and has securely provided people with a roof over their head that affords greater life opportunities in London for the past 43 years.
We’ve had a huge amount of change in our cooperative trust just in the last year, perhaps more than in decades, so it was essential to get feedback from a LOPO on the situation as it is now. The main question I was asking on behalf of the new group of trustees is: how can we further fulfil the original mission to support peoples housing in London? Why are there not more models like this? how can we spread this as an alternative to the market-driven landlord/tenant system?
As is ever the way with bountiful serendipity I received some excellent suggestions, warnings, encouragement and questions I would have never considered on my own or even with my co-trustees. Since LOPO we had a full house meeting to digest the feedback collectively. The process has brought us together as a house and instilled trust in a way that has been lacking for years. We convene again in two weeks for pragmatic agreements about our domestic future and how we can help others….

My pitch was followed by Mikey, Jules, Adah and Jim from the Urban Community experiment. They are building an intentional community to co-habit affordable living spaces. The project is about demonstrating that community living can be achieved and sustained in our cities, and accessible to people from all walks of life. It’s built on three pillars: commitment of time and energy, a common focus, and inner work. That’s what intentional community means: being active and present in each other’s lives – co-creating and supporting each other – to make the most our potential. A pilot community is planned on a 132ft oil barge with 16 berths many with ensuite bathroom facilities, multiple living and working areas, a large community / event space and three external decks (one with all-weather heated enclosure) allowing for food production and further event spaces. They asked for feedback on their vision and use of language; it’s appeal and potential reach, in terms of social value; and helpful connections to people and similar projects. After the session, Adah sent us this: “The LOPO session was a great (and timely) opportunity for us to road test not only our idea but our articulation of it, in an environment filled with people who want you to succeed. What helps is that the audience already have an optimistic interest in the theme, whether personal or professional, and so any feedback is valuable as it gives us an outside-in perspective of our goals. I loved the format.”

The tremendous Bill Callaghan – stand up Historian, Poet, Soldier, Playboy, ended the night with an entertaining and provocative glimpse into a future you can hear here! (link) Bill lives in the Tower of London, as yeoman, so it was great to have him at our housing event. What a special guest! He bought the spirit of the night and essence of LOPO, home.

Thank you to everyone who attended,

Tom Mansfield