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Hope In The Housing Crisis

October 17, 2017
by the gentle author

Recognising that housing is the burning question of our generation in the capital, I am very pleased to announce the East End Preservation Society‘s C.R. ASHBEE MEMORIAL LECTURE for 2017: HOPE IN THE HOUSING CRISIS – Three creative and humane initiatives dedicated to delivering homes for Londoners.

Oliver Wainwright, Architecture Critic of The Guardian, introduces speakers from three inspirational projects each pursuing different innovative solutions to the Housing Crisis, which could be replicated in the East End and across London.

The lecture takes place on Monday 13th November at 7:30pm in Shoreditch Church.


Dan Cruickshank, Will Palin & The Gentle Author founded the East End Preservation Society in 2013 to cherish the built environment of the East End and encourage a notion of development that serves local communities. Below you can read about the Older Women’s Cohousing Community (OWCH), Naked House and the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS).

This twenty-five apartment building, two minutes from Barnet High St, was completed just before Christmas 2016. It is home to twenty-six members of the Older Women’s Cohousing Community (OWCH) and is mixed tenure, two thirds leasehold and one third social rental. It is the only senior cohousing community in this country so far. The cohousing model is a way of living as part of an intentional group, where everyone knows each other and is signed up to a common set of core values. In OWCH’s case, these include co-operating and sharing responsiblity, care and support for each other, countering ageist stereotypes and being part of the wider community. OWCH members, aged from fifty-one to eighty-eight, manage the building themselves and use its communal facilities extensively. They had a role in its design, working with Pollard Thomas Edwards, a very user-friendly firm of architects. It won the National Housing Design Award for 2017 and the European Collaborative Housing Award.  – Maria Brenton

Naked House is a not-for-profit housing developer. We build genuinely affordable homes for people on modest incomes who are being priced out of London. Established by four young Londoners in 2013, who were uninspired by increasingly high-spec and expensive shared ownership flats, we strip back design to the bare essentials. A Naked House is a flat or a house that is complete in a minimalist sense. It is habitable and comes with electricity, heating, and a basic bathroom. However, the homes come with few finishes, fittings or partitions. This makes the homes cheaper to buy and allows people to create their own home over time. We have funding from the Mayor of London to build our first twenty-two homes in Enfield on unused garage sites. – Rachel Bagenal

The Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) is a members-led Community Land Trust in South London, founded in 2009 with the aim of creating sustainable community-led neighbourhoods and truly affordable self-build homes. We have over six hundred members and our mission is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, increase food security, encourage bio-diversity and provide affordable housing. RUSS aims to establish a model development process for creating homes which will remain genuinely affordable for future generations and which can be replicated across the country. We are seeking to regenerate empty sites across London into sustainable communities with affordable housing and improved environments for people and nature alike. For our first project, we are developing thirty-three homes amongst shared open space at Church Grove in Ladywell, Lewisham. The project, which is planned to start construction in January 2018, offers self-build opportunities for local people. – Kareem Dayes

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Dan Cruickshank’s Inugural Address for The East End Preservation Society 2013

“It should now be possible to protect our historic buildings, to maintain and improve our conservation areas, to represent and reinforce traditional communities and to create and sustain well-balanced new communities – ones that build on the rich and inclusive cultural tradition of East London.

But it seems that all these worthy expectations will not be realised without drastic, radical action. East London has reached a critical time in its long and rewarding history. Massive new developments such as the one proposed for Bishopsgate Goodsyard (which includes a series of towers from twenty-eight to five-five storeys in height) threaten to overwhelm adjoining conservation areas and infrastructure, cast shadow over communities and cause irreparable damage to established areas which have a strong character.

There is no strong evidence that developers are actually acting on opinions expressed through the consultation process – and the feeling is that the welfare of many is to be sacrificed for profits for a few.

The sound and handsome nineteen-twenties London Fruit & Wool Exchange in Spitalfields is to be largely demolished for a scheme which includes no housing, and which entails the destruction of the popular local pub, The Gun, and the eradication of the important late seventeenth-century street, Dorset St. The site could hardly be more sensitive, located in a conservation area, and opposite Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, one of most moving historic buildings in London.

After much debate and local opposition, the scheme was originally rejected by Tower Hamlets Council – a victory for community action and local democracy – but the Mayor of London intervened and, after acting as judge and jury, overturned the local authority’s decision and granted development consent. An alternative scheme – drawn up by local groups and which kept the important existing buildings and street pattern, which built on the history of the site – which proposed some housing and which would have created local employment – was dismissed out of hand.

This story represents a collapse of local democracy, and a cynical disregard of local people and opinion. So much for democracy when it comes to the protection and enhancement of East London! So much for the opinions of local communities! So much for history!

To me, it is obvious that an East End Preservation Society is needed a) to gather and represent local opinion b) to help East London people stand together c) to give them a voice and make that voice count (to ensure it is not only heard but also that it is acted upon) and d) to reveal and promote an urban vision which is not governed by short-term and personal profit, but which evokes and embraces more worthy and more communal aims – and which enshrines the spirit and character of East London.

Our opinions – the opinions of ordinary Londoners – matter, and must not be cast aside by corporations or corporate politicians. United we stand, divided we fall.

If we become a coherent pressure group, national and local politicians and planners will be obliged to listen to us. We have much to lose but – if we stick together – much to gain.”

You may also like to read about

The Founding of the East End Preservation Society

CR Ashbee in the East End

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Barbara Elsmore permalink
    October 17, 2017

    Three truly great schemes – every town should have an older women’s housing co-operative – think of the enrichment that can take place at what could be, and often is, a lonely and sad time of life. Support yourself, support others, be useful and live in a small well designed space – what could be better.

  2. October 17, 2017

    I did like Naked House no clutter here. Confession~being a project person I have lots of clutter this is needed for final poem outputs. John a bus pass poet

  3. charles page permalink
    October 17, 2017

    Dear Sir as I do not have facebook or twitter I am letting you know that I support you.
    Thank you

  4. Su C. permalink
    October 19, 2017

    Brilliant example of what forms out of need! I feel we here in the San Francisco Bay Area need to follow these examples. So many long standing and low income tenants are being displaced for conversion or downright rebuilds that have no place for them. It’s truly sad and I feel helpless for them.

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