Islington Park Street: co-operative living under threat

8 Jun

Everyone has a story. In this guest post Caroline Russell (Green Party member, Highbuy East councillor and hopeful London Assembly & Mayoral candidate) visited four knocked-together houses in Islington Park Street that are home to a diverse group of 18 people living under a threat of eviction.  THIS POST IS REBLOGGED on Islington Faces Blog FROM HERE.
Campaign photo from the two communities set up by Franciscan xx nearly 30 years ago which are under threat.

Campaign photo from the two communities set up by Franciscan friar, Greg Moore, nearly 30 years ago which are under threat. Photo on the right top shows Islington Park Street, N1.

The property in Islington Park Street was taken on ten years ago by One Housing Group (OHG), from the now closed down Patchwork Housing Association, along with other properties, for a token £1 payment. OHG first issued notice to quit five years ago (2010) and have recently begun eviction proceedings.This is a sadly familiar story in a city where land values are escalating and rents are too high.

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The residents of Islington Park Street are the most recent example of a London-wide story of unfair evictions, fuelled by the rocketing ‘value’ of property. The 18-strong community is bemused at the way the home they have shared for 39 years has fallen into the hands of a Housing Association that claims “we’re a ‘not-for-profit’ that loves to make a profit.” And talks about offering a range of support services to their “customers” including “those who find themselves homeless”.
Islington Park Street residents are preparing and daring to fight back for their home. On my first visit, it immediately became clear that this was a very special place. My bike was ushered in to a bicycle storeroom that also functions as a dry food store. All over the house there are signs of collective organisation in the form of functional racks and notice boards to enable efficient living.
A big pot of soup and a huge bowl of salad seemed to feed an endless stream of people who came in and out of the kitchen and joined the urgent conversation about how to resist eviction by One Housing Group.
The house is run on co-operative principles. There is no hierarchy, residents take it in turns to chair meetings and decisions are made as a group. Some residents have lived there for more than thirty years. Their allocations policy ensures that they are helping low income individuals to find a home, requiring that applicants earn no more than £23,000 and own no property. There’s a mixture of ages from 19 to 79 and residents describe it warmly as like living in an extended family supporting each other through a range of health and other issues including: depression, learning needs, cancer recovery, Parkinson’s disease and escape from domestic violence.
Low impact living
Eighteen people with four fridges, a few cookers and a huge kitchen table are living together, sharing utility and food bills, providing support to those who need it and showing that a different model for living in a city is possible. This is seriously low impact living. They asked us to guess what they spent on food and utility bills each week. We guessed £50 thinking it was probably more, but it was just under £35 per head. Shopping and cooking in bulk delivers huge savings, as does sharing facilities like cookers and fridges.The newly arrived eviction notices were the main topic of conversation.They arrived out of the blue, about five years after a previous notice to quit. The only offer of engagement by OHG is around the “decanting process”, which understandably residents are loathe to engage in. They want a discussion between tenants and landlord to find a resolution that enables them to remain.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it is not the first time that One Housing Group has been scrutinised for its reluctance to engage with those who bear the human cost of their business decisions.I found myself wondering about the people who had made the decision to evict and on what basis they made the decision. In a city becoming ever more divided – where communities are forcibly evicted if they cannot pay unaffordable rents – the mixed-need, low-income example of Islington Park Street could be a jewel in the crown of a housing association’s portfolio.If the Board members of OHG would only come and meet the residents and see the kindness and inclusion in their collective decision-making and actions to care for those that need help, they would perhaps be inspired and see the need to arrive at a different solution.In the context of an ageing population, rising bills for social care and squeezed public sector budgets, surely we should be exploring models for housing such as this? We must persuade the directors at One Housing Group to engage with these residents and negotiate a way forward.Clearly this community has accrued wisdom about this mutually-supporting, communal model of living. As our city becomes increasingly unaffordable it makes sense to think about living in different ways. Celebrating and developing this model, pioneered so successfully for 39 years in Islington Park Street, seems a great place to start.

  • You can help the residents of Islington Park Street and Crescent Road, their sister community in Kingston, by signing and sharing their petition
  • Guardian feature with photos here.
  • More about Caroline Russell’s London Assembly and Mayoral bid here.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

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This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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2 Responses to “Islington Park Street: co-operative living under threat”

  1. wyrdsis June 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Reblogged this on wyrdsis and commented:
    Sharing for reference, remember Islington Park Street Patchwork Housing well, it is beyond measure how important it is to have this co-operative housing in London.

    • nicola baird blogs June 16, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

      Thank you for reblogging this, I hope we are able to make sure lots of people know about what’s going on at Islington Park Street. Nicola

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