Friday, 18 March 2011

Anarchist task-division (by Lotte)

It is ALL going on. Srsly. There are a lot of things we need to do, and we've divided the tasks up in a fabulous and apparently random way.

Back in the early days of the co-op, I was somewhat apprehensive about organising something in an anarchistic fashion. If tasks were assigned according to personal skills and enthusiasm, I thought that there'd be an unfair division of labour. Some people will be naturally more enthusiastic about helping the co-op, and some people will just sit back and let them take that work on. Perhaps some things just wouldn't get done. I thought this would annoy me, and it was one of my (few) anxieties.

However, this is so far not the case. Other people see things differently, I'm sure, but this is why I think it works so well at the moment.

Everyone in the co-op is really passionate about getting this project off the ground. Failure isn't an option! If something needs doing, someone has to do it, and so someone will volunteer. This might not always be the case, but it is now.

Also, some people in the co-op can't volunteer for much because they have a lot of work to do in their own life and/or they don't have the energy to spare. This is what I thought I'd get annoyed about, but actually, that's fine too. We all know each other well enough to know that if we can't take on much work it's because of other factors that can't be helped, and so I don't resent people who can't work. This seems to have happened without me noticing.

Even the people who don't do much still do something, and it's something essential. If it wasn't done, we'd be doomed, I tell you, dooooooooomed. Like, I'm a bit of a hermit and can't go out and about to meet people and make lots of organising phone calls, but I can learn about and understand things thoroughly and be a point of contact. So I've happily taken on the task of organising the solicitor, and if it gets more social/travelly, someone else can help me. Others are good with numbers and have attention to detail and will handle the financial aspect of things; others are good at talking and knowing who to talk to, so they're handling the people-organising. And even the people who aren't doing any of this don't worry me, as there's always plenty of varied stuff to do, and they'll find ways to help later on in the process. Even now, everyone's cooking for the co-op, and I think that helps more than we all realise.

Some people are taking on loads of stuff, because they feel able and because they're good at it; hopefully later on when we're settled in a home, be it Mould Mansion or somewhere else, they can take a well-earned break and let others keep things ticking over.

So things are a little quiet here, blogwise. But IRL, we're doing loads. We've got something co-op-related going on every day for the next three days, and that's just what we've planned so far.

It's all very exciting, and we've not even put in an offer!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Golems Are Go!

After getting to grips with posting regularly on the blog, it may seem like we went quiet on you again rather suddenly. All I can say is, we've been too busy to blog, and this week has been one of the busiest in our short history for one very good reason: we've decided to make an offer on Mould Mansion.

I'm not sure we ever thought the right house would come along, but now it has, we are having to mobilise very quickly to try and make it ours. There is so much to do, and it's at times like these that I am most accutely aware of how lucky we are to have six people sharing the work. There are quotes to obtain, appointments to make, spreadsheets to tweak, and emails and phone calls flying off in all directions. Two of the six golems are in the last few months of their degrees, with dissertations to work on and coursework to hand in. Another works full-time and is fitting all the co-op work and meetings in around the job. One has uni work and has just been offered an amazing, time-consuming, career-furthering project which will run over the next few months. My days are usually spent juggling a small baby in one hand and a basket of washing in the other. The last of us needs to rest a lot, and has to manage their time very carefully. But thankfully we can distribute the things that need to be done between us, depending on what people find the easiest to manage along with their other commitments. This is one of the many reasons that co-ops are awesome.

As part of this epic activity, we need to make sure we have the finance in place to buy the house and to make it the lovely (for which read: habitable) home we all envisage. That means knowing that if our offer is accepted we know what we need to do to fix it up, how much it will cost, and how we are going to pay for it.

And this, dear reader, is where you can get involved with this brilliant adventure.

We are looking for further loanstock, and for guarantors willing to provide a guarantee for sections of the loan we will be applying for from Radical Routes. For loanstock, you can loan anything from £500 up, and choose your own investment period (3 years plus) and interest rate (up to 4%). Further details can be found on our loanstock page. Loanstock is unsecured, but co-ops are typically a very safe investment, and by investing in a co-op you will be helping to provide long-term affordable housing which no individuals can personally profit from. Ethical or what?

For guarantors, we would only need you to put your name to £1000 of our loan, and you would only be actually required to provide the money if the housing co-op failed, the house was sold and it's sale price did not cover our outstanding debts (thankfully a rare occurrence, and an even rarer one for co-ops which are part of Radical Routes). You can offer to guarantee more than this if you wish, though to guarantee over £1,000 you will need to provide proof of savings. As soon as is possible we are planning to have the house revalued so that the guarantees are no longer needed, so this is more of a temporary back up so that we can get started than something we imagine being called upon. When we have raised the value of the house, your guarantee has supported us without you having to pay a penny, sothis is a fantastic way for anyone who would love to help us out but has no money to buy loanstock with to get involved. Happy times.

If you're interested in helping us out with either loanstock or a guarantee, then please contact us. We're happy to talk about it and answer your questions, and if you decide it's not for you, that's no problem at all. These are very exciting times, and if we can make an offer that is accepted by the vendor, things are only going to get more exciting. Sharing these developments on the blog is hopefully something that might get some of you more interested in co-ops, and if even one of you chooses to get more involved with the co-operative movement in whatever way, then all of our rambling has been well worth it.

That's it. Ramble over. I'm off to read more about different types of insulation, just in case;-)


Friday, 4 March 2011

House Viewings: Hippy Haven/Mould Mansion Revisited

We had two house viewings today, topping off a busy week of co-op activity. What with three house viewings, a meeting, our usual co-op meals, a referendum and Bi-Fest Wales tomorrow, it's a wonder we've managed to keep so on top of the blog. Go us.

So, first up was Hippy Haven, a new house to us, and one which we already had a good idea wasn't suitable from dissecting the particulars. It was, however, considerably under our budget, and so we went to see it with a view to assessing the potential for extension.

This house is vendor-occupied, so I didn't take pictures, but we did get to meet the fabulous lady who lives there currently. Essentially she's Mattie in 35 years time, which means she's awesome:-D The occupant prior to her was an Italian called Monty, who sounds like a future version of Sven, having planted in the garden, amongst other things, some grapevines, a brick pizza oven and a still.

You can tell the vendor was amazing because we know all this.

Anyway, the long, short and medium-length of it is, the house is too small for us and an extension would be possible but logistically a nightmare. I was sad that we couldn't offer to love this house, if only because the owner is so sweet and so enthusiastic about co-ops. It will be a fantastic home for someone's family, but sadly not mine.

Somewhat later in the day a small party of us revisited Mould Mansion. Sven and Lloyd had not been able to attend the first time, but the enthusiasm shown by the rest of us made a return visit inescapable. Me and Finn went along for the walk, and to have a proper nosey in the garden, and because, essentially, I couldn't resist.

Can you tell I like it?

The strange thing is that the mould downstairs was not as bad as I remembered, though I stand by my replaster-the-whole-kitchen-or-I'll-never-eat-a-thing-cooked-in-it stance. Lloyd made it clear that he approved, in his quiet way. Sven took lots of notes, in his building geeky way, and pronounced it to be not as bad as I'd made out. Some blocked gutters may be causing some of the problems, and a lot of things that need to be done could feasibly be done by us, apparently. To get a second opinion on this, we have a third visit booked on monday and are taking a builder friend along.

Can you tell we like it?

We fit into this house, and it feels like this house fits us, and we are fit to make it fit for us (!). All of which wordplay leads us to believe that we might be drumming up loanstock pledges again some time soon. Watch this space!


Thursday, 3 March 2011

Fun voting times (by Lotte)

Today I did some social change by posting a random-act-of-kindness to a woman who runs a kids' knitting group, which was satisfying. I also VOTED. And if you're in Wales, you should too. Polls close at 10pm, and even if you don't have your polling card your name will still be on the list.

Here's my satisfyingly gloominous and gothic polling station entrance for your perusal.

The haps are, and I thieve shamelessly from the BBC:

At present the assembly can pass legislation in 20 devolved policy areas, including health and education.

A Yes vote would mean it no longer needs to apply to parliament for law-making powers on a case-by-case basis.

Voting is until 2200 GMT. The count starts on Friday morning, with a final result likely in the afternoon.

A No vote would keep the existing system, while a Yes would mean the assembly can pass laws without first seeking consent in Westminster.

However, if there was a Yes the assembly would not gain powers over new areas.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

House Viewing: Mould Mansion

As promised, here is a post house-viewing post. I thought I'd start putting pictures into posts, so you get a glimpse into the diversity of properties we're looking at, and also to break up my long-winded rambling and many-comma'd sentences:-) All photos are courtesy of Lotte on this occasion..

And so, I shall call this property Mould Mansion, for the straightforward reason that I have never seen such levels of mould and damp in my life. It was extraordinary! The interesting thing was that this property - a three floor Victorian terrace split into 3 flats - was really a trip through the extremes of the property market. The top floor flat was really rather well-appointed, with nice floors/wallpaper/giant picture frames with armchairs in (ok, that last bit was unusual). You'd never know what lay below. There are 4 rentable private spaces up there, a bathroom and a door to the fire escape/garden. Lovely sea views too. One of the rentable spaces is 2 ajoining rooms, which could well come in handy for some of us.

The next floor down is about the same standard as a lot of rented accomodation round here. A bit mouldy, in need of decoration, with some strange choices of carpet - all par for the course, really. This floor has a bathroom and 3 rentable spaces. Again, 2 of them are ajoining spaces, which means the space sizes end up being pretty ok all round. The joyous thing about this house is that we fit, which makes us very, very excited.

Excited... but daunted. Because on the ground floor is the most fascinating mould-based civilisation, spanning the kitchen, bathroom and part of the dining room. Oh my word, it is immense. Truly, fascinatingly immense. I shan't show you photos, you'd re-visit your dinner.On the plus side there are some great-sized communal rooms, and everywhere you look you can see the potential for this to be a fantastic home.

Much to my delight there are decent gardens to the front and back. Mattie is rather beautifully modelling the back garden in the photo to the left:-)

Even more pleasingly, we'd be making sure this rather posh, yet neglected, house would be available at affordable rent for years to come. To further highlight the wondrousness of this possibility, another woman was viewing the house at the same time as us. Mattie and I asked her what she was looking for, and she said "A bargain that I can make some money on". I felt a sneaky sense of pride that we would be creating a longer lasting, and more community-minded, legacy if we were the ones to buy the house.

We've a meeting tonight where I suspect we'll decide to do a second viewing, hopefully with a builder friend in tow. The house is up for auction (a whole other level of complexity when applied to co-op finances) so there's no knowing the price, but I think we will be following this one very closely whatever we decide to do as a group. I just hope that whoever buys it gives it the TLC that it deserves.