Published 1/2/19  4:38pmby Ali Phelps


A Short Walk and a Long Journey

Ali Phelps ponders on the pace of our progress.

It takes seven minutes to walk from my house to where I hope to live soon. We don’t need a five bedroomed house anymore, but we may need supportive neighbours as we get older.

We always wanted to stay in the same area with the same networks of friends and campaigners, easy access to the city centre and transport links, so creating co-housing with other enthusiasts seemed an obvious idea.

Our (long distance) daughter and son are very keen for this move too, as we will have to trim fifty years worth of stuff ourselves (saving them the trouble later) as well as give them peace of mind about us across the ocean. The guest rooms in the shared common house will be ready for their visits, as well as handy playmates, shared garden, and shared shed for making planes with Grandpa.

But it’s a long journey! We started dreaming this move in 2010 with a few inspired car-share friends. Since then we’ve:

  • looked at three other possible sites
  • floated the idea in the community at every opportunity
  • selected an architect, project manager and contractor
  • partnered with Unity Housing
  • visited lots of other co-housing projects, conferences, training sessions
  • learnt a lot about Leeds City Council and Government policies
  • found grants
  • launched a successful loanstock offer
  • attracted dozens of enquiries
  • grown in committed members
  • argued over designs, values, pets, food, music, cars, gardening, energy
  • worked hard at reaching consensus in meetings
  • been in the paper, on telly, and had a film made
  • discovered fourteen ways of communicating with each other
  • campaigned about road safety
  • admired the promising noticeboard announcing housing on ‘our’ site
  • enjoyed a couple of weekends away together, practising living closely
  • had three new babies, eight kids and one funeral
  • watched the first kids become teenagers
  • tried out so much amazing new food in shared meals together.

If we can move house in 2020, I will have travelled half a mile in ten years. And one mile in forty-eight years. Which is about one centimetre a day from our first basement flat to our dream new co-housing build.

I can’t wait!