Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

South Bank conference on cohousing, 2023

Cohousing offers solutions and ‘intentional communities’

The consensus that there is a housing crisis has led on to a search for possible and different ways ahead. Kate Moran of HOWCH (Hastings Older Women’s Cohousing) reports on an autumn conference.

Recently I attended the UK Cohousing summit the first held face-to-face in six years. It was a real hive, abuzz with exchange and anecdote, and asked more questions than provided answers, at least in relation to finance.

Wrigleys solicitors took part and explained: ‘We recognise you don’t want to build houses but build communities’. They added that much more education on Cohousing was necessary, together with receptive financial institutions. Laughton Lodge in East Sussex, one of Britain’s first Cohousing communities, was one of their projects.

800 people have registered their interest on the Cohousing UK portal. The interest is growing evidence of the vital, well-being aspects of living within an intentional community. Loneliness and anxiety diminish as the neighbourly support strengthens. A community relationship takes time to build and is not achieved through a top-down management style.

Which pressing problems is Cohousing best fitted to tackle? Certainly, as a calm harbour for older, single women who seek an independent life within a supportive environment. The boomer cohort is aging and thinking about our future.

Angie Doran, Head of Self-commissioned Homes, Homes England (a non-departmental public body), said that the Government recognises the benefits of eco- and community-led housing (Bacon Review, 2021). It’s shown to be affordable, it meets a demand, and does much to alleviate loneliness and isolation thereby improving health targets.

However their first key objective is to enable more homeowners. She encouraged engagement with industry stakeholders. Angie promised that some plots would be released next year, 2024 ( Funding issues were less clear however.

Dorset examples

Next up was Bridport (Dorset) Cohousing: BCHA is a CLT (community land trust), also registered as a Community Benefit Society. They have have allied with Dorset Council to build the largest community in the UK, with 53 sustainable, affordable eco-homes to rent or buy (half social rent and half shared ownership). Grants were available from the unitary Council, and affordability was a key aim. The community are currently and gladly building their common house which could not be budgeted before. 

They advise that co-operation, collaboration and commitment are vital to the success of the project. They collaborated with Dorset Council, Homes England, NHS and Housing Associations. Dorset Council received £800,000 from Homes England and the Community Housing Fund helped buy the land. 53 homes were built because the Housing Association (Registered Provider) thought less would not be viable.

A key (and repeated) detail was that all projects need a ‘champion’ to promote it a Development Manager who understands the vision. Also emphasised was the importance of forging a good relationship with the Housing Association from the beginning.

Cohousing discussions


Developer-led Cohousing is billed as profit with purpose. Town was set up in 2014 and concentrates on neighbourhood projects of under 100 homes. Marmalade Lane, Cambridge is a multigenerational community of 42 homes which has won many awards and is described as ‘joyous’. The local shop has transformed into a social hub (conventional planning only allowed a shop with 1,000 homes built). An evaluation will be published soon.

Town aims for social, environmental and economic benefits. A prime instance is Millers’ Field, Oundle (near Peterborough), where there is a focus on seniors. A new venture Hartree (Cambridge North) is realising 5,000 homes built over 5 years, with small pockets of Cohousing introduced. The new model of living is flourishing, and the term Cohousing is a proxy for affordable housing.

HOWCH stall in London Road


Another major provider, Housing 21, laid out their top down approach with a focus on deprivation and minority ethnic groups, where neighbourly community interactions are deemed important, but not design or management decision making. Drawings and 3-D models are shown but the proposed residents are not involved in the design process, which is fundamental to a ‘high-functioning neighbourhood’. 

This term was coined by the architect Charles Durrett, as was ‘Cohousing’ in 1985. He has worked immersively on the subject over many years. Durrett studies a developing community and notes how people gather in a neighbourhood. A game-changer can be the addition of a community café. He believes the evolving system needs streamlining. HOWCH too welcomes the acceptance of intentional communities. Data is amassing to show the benefits of living ‘Independently Together’ where neighbourly interaction is encouraged (by design). 

The North London residents of OWCH (Older Women’s Cohousing, aka New Ground) have a video on their website which admirably shows the wellbeing quotient of ‘a high functioning neighbourhood’. This is what HOWCH (and its supporters) hope to achieve locally, to the benefit of all. HOWCH is contactable on .

If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link.Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 19:05 Sunday, Oct 29, 2023 In: Home Ground

Also in: Home Ground

More HOT Stuff

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!


    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…


    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!


    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us


    Get our regular digest emails

  • Subscribe to HOT