“‘Ouses, ‘ouses, ‘ouses” , that’s what old Jimmy Copper said in 1951 when his voice was recorded by the BBC as he was looking out over the South Downs at the landscape he used to walk as a shepherd boy. “There was ‘ouses, ‘ouses, ‘ouses on the land we used to plough.”
And it seems that no matter how many houses we build, how much Greenbelt we build upon, there are never enough houses to go round. Plenty of luxury flats and large detached houses and new office buildings but there is now a ‘clipped wing’ generation living with parents up until their mid-thirties, who feel they will never own their own home. And what of those who can’t or don’t want to live at home who are forced to group together in twos and threes and fours and fives and pay sky high rents to private landlords just to have a room in a shared house to call their own.
There’s a project in Bristol I’m involved with tackling this issue from a grassroots level.
Abolish Empty Office Buildings House People.
AEOB House People for short, let me tell you what we are doing:
Firstly this is an ethical investment, three hundred thousand pounds has been raised through a share issue with a guaranteed return of between 1 and 3 percent over the first 3 years of occupation.
That three hundred thousand pounds has been used to buy a run down commercial unit in the corner of a 1970’s housing estate in the St George area of Bristol. One small part of the two point two million square feet of unused office space in Bristol alone.
Now the three hundred thousand pounds has been converted into property it has been ethically mortgaged releasing four hundred thousand pounds to pay for the the conversion and extension of the unit into living spaces for ten people – studio apartments, one bedroom flats, two bedroomed flats, a shared common room, laundry room, bike store and workshops. Social, community housing built to the highest standards of energy efficiency using ecological and sustainable building materials and methods.
Now for the clever part – the residents will form a co-operative which be responsible for paying a fair rent on the whole property to the project to cover the mortgage repayments whilst being solely responsible for setting rents, managing maintenance and recruiting new residents when required. A self-managed community in control of its own destiny with no threat of short notice eviction or unexpected rent increases just because ‘the market’ says more can be squeezed out of hard pressed tenants.
And you can be part of this change in any way you feel you are able, from investing, volunteering at the site, becoming a resident or by using the tools AEOB House People have created during this process to start your own project changing the face of housing one empty office building at a time.
More information about AEOB House People can be found at http://www.aeobhousepeople.org.uk and https://www.facebook.com/AEOBhousepeople
This article and more information on the author can be found at https://ijameslaurie.wordpress.com
Photo courtesy AEOB People Facebook page.