Cohousing dreams for Glasgow, Christine Vennard

IF negotiations come off, Scotland might soon have its first modern-day version of Cohousing.

This is the story of a group Glasgow residents – of all ages, including families, couples and single households – who are negotiating with the city council to secure a plot of land in the north Maryhill area of the city.

As a sign of our commitment, we have taken equity stakes in the project – beginning at £1,000, soon enough expected to rise to around £8,000 – because lawyers, architects and topographical surveys don’t come cheap.

As many people already know, Cohousing is a particular form of community-led and co-operative housing. It is not communal living; instead, it is about people designing and then managing their own, individual homes, but there are shared resources.

The sharing culture is two-fold: there is an ecological dimension (saving on resources) and also a community cohesion one.

My own interest in Cohousing goes back 40 years, when I was a member of a faith group, trying to put into action justice and peace issues. That light has not dimmed in the decades since.

So, when Clachan – the Glasgow Cohousing group now negotiating with the council – started coming together, six years ago, both my husband and I jumped at the opportunity.

We don’t expect the land we have spied to be donated. As we understand it, it has been earmarked for three schemes: some self-build housing plots (like elsewhere in Maryhill, as recently featured on Ch4’s Grand Designs), food growing (there are high-rises nearby, with a real desire from the residents to connect with the soil) and Cohousing.

We need to recruit, because our plans imagine 16-18 households. It will be funded via a model called Mutual Home Ownership Society. A MHOS is about a single body (in our case, Clachan) being responsible for the mortgage and residents paying monthly towards their share of the build costs, which converts to equity which can be withdrawn when they leave.

We are all committed to making MHOS work, to such an extent that at least some of the housing will be relatively affordable, inspired by LILAC in Leeds (the clue is in the name: Low Impact Living Affordable Community), who have been a great support, as a source of advice and wisdom.

Cohousing is about neighbourliness. It should be mainstream, albeit to join Clachan will involve both parties (prospective residents and us) effectively interviewing each other. 

We need to ensure we are a good fit for each other. It’s about a common purpose and shared values.

Christine Vennard is a member of Clachan Cohousing

A version of this article appeared in The Herald newspaper, June 9, here.

Pictured: Cohousing ‘game’ results, Glasgow roadshow, Cohousing Scotland; Picture credit: David Somervell

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