Five enterprising Orkney women are the driving force behind the Hope Cohousing Project and have already established a limited company to take their plans forward.
On Monday, 2nd of September, they presented their ideas to the public at a meeting in Stromness Library.
The fantastic five got together to establish the first co-housing community in Orkney.
What is Co-Housing?
Co-housing is a form of group living, set up and run by the residents. Co- housing is well established in Denmark. It offers affordable community living with a variety of social designs but has been particularly successful for older people who wish to continue to live independently.
The Orkney women: Cath Kirkwood, Lesley Livsey, Elke Pearson, Janet Rambridge and Trish Spence set up a company earlier this year and have appointed Sacha Wright as their project Co-ordinator. Sacha’s crucial role will explore the funding models the project will be aiming to attract.
A site for the Hope Cohousing project has been located adjacent to St Margaret’s Road and architects Professor Gokay Deveci of Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen and Sam Foster have produced initial plans.
A simple scale model of one of the houses has also been put together to help to interpret the plans.
Orkney Islands Council, who owns the area of land it is hoped the development can be built on is being extremely helpful and Housing Manager Luke Fraser has provided the 5 women with advice, information and encouragement.
The development is to have 5 two bedroom houses which are linked together with a central communal house. The self-contained private houses will be low energy and aiming for zero carbon emissions. They will also be equipped with intelligent technology to support independent living.
The Hope project will be private affordable rented houses with residents having to be 60+ to apply and can be single or couples. Residents must be committed to the principles of the co housing community and the women have developed a set of policies covering a range of issues including resolving disputes.
There is even a possibility of the communal house having a self-contained flat so that anyone interested in becoming a resident can try it out first before committing themselves.
Co-housing may not be to everyone’s tastes but it’s a great example of forward creative thinking by the women . This is a form of co-operative living which would suit their needs to continue to live independently and which will be of lasting community benefit.
The development is not like sheltered housing or residential care. It is very much about living independently in appropriate accommodation and reducing the social isolation that many may experience in Orkney as they get older.
There are many different examples of successful co housing communities. This is an example of one in London which caters for older women.
There are also co housing communities which are inter generational. Variations depend on the needs of the local community and this project in St Margaret’s Hope may provide a blue print for what could work for many in Orkney.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame