Saturday, 26 February 2011

'Ouses, 'Ouses, 'Ouses*

I thought I'd write a post about house viewings, since that's a huge part of what we're doing right now. Finding houses that fit our criteria exactly (or even closely) is pretty tricky. This isn't because we're hideously demanding and want a hot tub in every house (although there was one in the last one!), but because there are a lot of us and we can't afford very much. Necessity being the mother of invention, this means we are usually looking at houses that would need a lot of jiggling and poking to fit the bill.

The last house we looked at (mentioned in my last blog post) was one of a pair of 1930's semis just round the corner from where most of the golems live now. Unfortunately one of them had sold the night before we were meant to go and look, but we carried on with the other viewing so we could establish whether two neighbouring houses might fit the communal bill. In truth, I wasn't expecting it to be suitable, but was presently surprised to see that we could probably, maybe, make it work. One delightful thing that became clear from looking at the two house scenario was that some of us felt that even being neighbours wouldn't be close enough, and that without bashing holes in the wall to connect the two houses we would feel split in twain. How twee are we? Very, is the answer - but then I suppose we wouldn't be buying a house together if we didn't want the chance to see each other on the way to the bathroom in the morning.

Anyway, we had a meeting informal-chat-over-dinner this week to re-establish what we wanted from our future housing, what had changed after lots of house viewings, and how we felt about the process. Sadly Mattie couldn't make it as she was at work, but the general consensus between the other 5 of us was that things were going well and that we are prepared to be patient waiting for the right house to come along. Phew! Room size is still an important issue for most of us, and I think will be the thing that settles us on one house over another when it comes down to it, but there was agreement that we were all prepared to view houses and assess each one individually rather than writing them off because the particulars don't sound promising.

With this reassurance reagrding our aims, there will hopefully be a slew of house viewings. We have one on monday (subject to a minimum of 3 golems being able to attend, as per our consensus agreement on the matter) for a large house, currently split into 3 flats. We like properties like this, as they have extraneous kitchens and bathrooms which can be brought back into use as bedroom spaces for individual people, rather neatly pointing out why it's more energy/resource/space efficient to live in larger groups than smaller ones. Huzzah!

This particular house is up for auction with a ridiculously low start price, so there's no knowing whether it's in budget or not, but with the very friendly auction lady to lend us a hand, we feel confident enough to go and have a look.

Intriguingly she also informed us that the house that we nearly went for never did sell as the vendor wasn't happy with the price he got at auction. This made me think more about the whole house-as-asset thing, and how glad I am that we will be removing a house from the market. If it is ever sold then at least the profits (if there are any) will be retained within the co-op movement, so there's less incentive for us to waste a lot of people's time and energy selling a house and then changing our minds because it doesn't personally make us enough cash.

Lotte and I have been plotting what sort of things should go on the blog, and we're hoping that every time we have a viewing we'll put up a little post or a huge one, like this) about how it went and what we got from it. I'm hoping that some of the people reading this blog are thinking about setting up co-ops and want to know what's involved, and that we can provide a little window into how a group of individuals with very little prior knowledge find a way to sustainably house themselves.If you are thinking about it, please get in touch with us for a natter. It's n secret that I dream of running little workshops in the living room of our house, sharing our experiences and inspiring others to do the same, so that there can be lots of pockets of people living in tenant-owned housing in our local area. Happy times:-)


* This is a reference to a rather brilliant song on the first album by The Imagined Village, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone.

Friday, 18 February 2011


Or rather: RR! We are now proper members of Radical Routes!

Things may have been seeming quiet here at Golem HQ, but we've actually been busy, and not just with pulling faces at the baby to make him smile (although that is currently at the top of the daily agenda for most of us). Work has been ongoing with making us more Official (with a capital O), and we now have shares in the co-op, and will soon have share certificates, or Cher certificates, if Mattie has her way. (I must say, I like the idea of the latter - although "Do you believe in life after landlord-owned rented accomodation?" is a less catchy lyric by anyone's standards).

Some of us also attended the Spring Radical Routes gathering in Brighton. The 'some' in question comprised Lotte, Mattie, Sven, Finn and me, all squeezed into a small hire car for the journey, and then all kindly housed at Out Of Town housing co-op for the weekend. This was my first gathering and I really enjoyed it, but it did bring home to me how tricky things like long meetings are with a very small person to look after. I only managed one workshop attendance, and that was down to the fabulous baby-wrangling skills of Lotte and Finn having a fortuitous nap. The rest of the weekend involved me and Lotte eating cake in great proportions thanks to the Cowley Club, and squeezing in fabulous conversations with fabulous people. Oh, and pulling faces at the baby, of course:-) Mattie and Sven volunteered for everything ever, and Lotte and I wrangled our way into the Children's Working Group. Yay!

In other news, we've had a few house viewings. Well, one recently and one today. The recent one was a fabulous wreck, complete with tonnes of ridiculously lovely original features and fascinatingly studwall-divided rooms (including one which had been divided diagonally), but it was over our budget and quite, quite delapidated. The house we're viewing today is one of a pair we were hoping to look at, but sadly one has sold. Sad times. We're still looking at t'other one though, so if similar houses come up we will know whether they could be the right place for us.

So, apologies for the rambling post, probably full of typos as I'm breastfeeding at the same time, but I thought you'd appreciate a hello:-)


Thursday, 3 February 2011

Our agendar, let me show you it.


Since we're having a meeting tonight, I thought I'd keep it fresh in my mind by telling you about how we structure our meetings. We find it really helpful to keep us all on the same page, and to make sure we regularly talk about the things that need talking about.

We can keep it pretty simple because our co-op doesn't have a house yet. Once we've bought somewhere and moved in, we'll probably need to have sections for maintenance, accounts and loanstock, bills, all that jazz. But for now, here's how it goes for a simple start-up co-op.

  1. Treasurer's report. Every month we all put a bit of money into the pot to cover expenses, such as stationary, travel costs and (hopefully) future Radical Routes payments. In this bit, the treasurer just squares the accounts book and tells us how the finances are looking. The exact figure goes into the minutes.
  2. Social change. Even though we're not in Radical Routes, we like the social change dedication aspect so we've adopted it already. We're all trying to get in our 16 hours a week, and here we share what we've been up to and any ideas or events that others might like to participate in. It's in the form of a go-around, to give everyone a chance to say everything they want to say.
  3. ALL THE STUFF. Things from the last meeting that we planned to come back to, and things that occurred to us in between times that we told the secretary about with enough time for them to add it to the agenda. This might include potential houses to view together, travel plans for Radical Routes National Gatherings, bank account stuff, loanstock information or anything else that needs bringing up.
  4. Any Other Business. The words of dread. Stuff that randomly occurred to us during the meeting, or just before. Fortunately, these often tend to fly by, as they're simple things mostly.
  5. Homework overview. Some of us will have volunteered to complete tasks for the co-op before the next meeting; this is just to make sure that everyone's clear on who's doing what.
  6. The next meeting. Choosing the chair and the date/time. If we don't arrange it now, we'll keep faffing and putting it off. When we're all sat around a table together, that's the best time to find out when everyone's free.
  7. Queue for bathroom, followed by cups of tea.