How to do Social Housing: Part Two

Continuing the true story of Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust on siteGranby on site - 70

The second of two detailed parts of my story about exactly how to do social housing. Or at least, exactly how we’re doing it in Granby 4 Streets.

At the end of Part One we are deliriously winning the Turner Prize.

At the end of Part One we are deliriously winning the Turner Prize.

Assemble and a few of us are up in Glasgow at the Channel Four announcement.

Assemble and a few of us, though not me, are up in Glasgow at the Channel Four announcement.

The rest of us are in Liverpool watching it all together at The Small Cinema in Victoria Street.

The rest of us are in Liverpool watching it all together at The Small Cinema in Victoria Street.

Next morning I’m up well before the dawn reflecting on what’s just happened and have published my thoughts on here before the media start arriving in the Four Streets.

Ann O'Byrne, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool. Up early after last night along with the rest of us.

Ann O’Byrne, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool. Up early after last night along with the rest of us.

Theresa McDermott, resident and CLT Board member.

Theresa McDermott, resident and CLT Board member.

We’re busy all day with radio and television.

dd

And for a few days afterwards get recognised because we’ve been in the Echo.

We also get loads of media coverage where we’re asked to answer the question of whether or not what we’re doing is ‘art?’ My standard response being that I profoundly don’t care. I’m glad all of this is generally good for Liverpool and opens up some funding doors for us all. But the art world is not a place I would ever choose to go and live in.

While work on the houses continues around us.

Meanwhile work on the houses continues around us.

Joe from Penny Lane builders still keeping an eye on things.

Joe from Penny Lane Builders still keeping an eye on things.

Joe from Assemble, back from Glasgow, talking with Dave the joiner, while his 16 year old apprentice Charlie works in the background.

Joe from Assemble, back from Glasgow, talking with Dave the carpenter/joiner, while his 16 year old apprentice Charlie works in the background.

And with Steve Ross, Penny Lane's site manager.

And here with Steve Ross, Penny Lane’s site manager.

The three of us constantly discussing where we’re up to and making decisions as we go, renovating these late 19th century houses.

At the end of the day, when the plasterer has got changed and gone home I’m shown the Penny Lane team’s Turner Prize winning sculpture.

The Turner Prize plasterer.

The Turner Prize plasterer.

A couple of nights later we have a party. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

Our Michael Simon does most of the food, but lots of people bring more.

Our Michael Simon does most of the food, but lots of people bring more.

Theresa, Fran and Hazel.

Theresa, Fran and Hazel.

To us!

To us!

To all of us!

To all of us!

Michael gets a new hair weave.

Michael gets a new hair weave.

From Part One you’ll remember ‘The Corner.’ The former shop destabilised by the early winter storms which us and the City Council had decided needed to be demolished.

Well now it has been.

Well now it is being.

Taking down what was left of the shop and that whole section that used to be the shopkeeper’s house. Us as the Community Land Trust (CLT) will be restoring, and in this case rebuilding these four corner shops when we’ve raised the money.

But for now we're left with a gable end wall we hadn't planned on having.

But for now we’re going to be left with a gable end wall we hadn’t planned on having.

Still work continues. Young Charlie again here.

Still work continues. Young Charlie again here.

During the course of this job Penny Lane have five young local apprentices working on the site.

And Eleanor, resident and CLT member has come for her first look at how we're getting on.

Now Eleanor, resident and CLT member has come for her first look at how we’re getting on.

Including at the main bedroom upstairs where there will be no ceiling.

Including at the main bedroom upstairs where there will be no ceiling.

During this time Eleanor and I also go to Birmingham to Anthony Collins Solicitors, CLT specialists, to talk about how we’ll sell some of our houses to local people and first time buyers. At first we’re thinking we might do shared ownership, but eventually we all decide to go for outright sales but with a resale price covenant pinned to the median wage level in Liverpool. We decide this for the sake of long term affordability and to stop future gentrification as far as we can. It’s always been our intention to have a mix of rented and sold houses in the new community we’re building. We just hadn’t realised it would result in us learning so much about Property Law!

And so this is Christmas.

And so this is Christmas.

As 2016 begins the shape of 'The Corner' has changed.

As 2016 begins the shape of ‘The Corner’ has changed.

The demolition squad have finished and left a pile of old building behind them.

And our brand new gable end wall. Nice.

And our brand new gable end wall. Nice.

We suspend all plastering works in no19 Cairns Street.

We suspend all plastering works in no19 Cairns Street.

Until the demolition site can be cleared and we can be given access to the corner land, which we don’t yet own, to deal with our now leaking gable end.

Meanwhile at 23 the ground floor is being laid.

Meanwhile at 23 the ground floor is being laid.

And we have gas and electricity.

And we have gas and electricity.

Getting the water back on after a gap of 20 years or so will be another matter, but we’ll come back to that.

Meanwhile it rains relentlessly. So far, the wettest site I've ever worked on.

Meanwhile it rains relentlessly. So far, the wettest site I’ve ever worked on.

But inside 23 and 2 it stays dry.

But inside 23 and 21 it stays dry.

And Joe, Steve and I work quietly and steadily on.

And Joe, Steve, me and everyone work quietly and steadily on.

Despite being the wettest site I’ve ever worked on, it’s also the friendliest. Though we have our scrapes and surprises, as you will with restoring long empty Victorian houses, every site visit in all this time is a good humoured pleasure.

dd

We’re doing what we can in 19, but it’s falling behind the other two as we still can’t get at the gable end.

Over in the Granby Workshop Sufea Mohamad Noor talks a couple of our many visitors through what they're about.

Over in the Granby Workshop Sufea Mohamad Noor talks a couple of our many visitors through what they’re about.

Sufea is a textile artist who works at The Tate and also at Granby Workshop, the new social enterprise set up by Assemble to make so much for our CLT houses, but also household stuff which is also now on sale and selling well since the Turner Prize win.

'In the street the builders come and go, (only occasionally) speaking of Michaelangelo'

‘In the street the builders come and go, (only occasionally) speaking of Michaelangelo’

(No apologies to TS Eliot.)

Well on now, the decorators are in.

Well on now, the decorators are in.

The tiles made at Granby Workshop are done.

The tiles made in Granby Workshop are done.

The storage walls are being made by Charlie and Dave.

The storage walls are being made by Charlie and Dave.

And installed

And installed and finished.

But we still haven't got the water connected.

But we still haven’t got the water connected.

And so Penny Lane Builders are harvesting what they need for site works straight off the roof. Just as well it’s raining so much.

Eventually it turns out that part of the difficulty is that the utilities company doesn’t even recognise these as houses as they’ve long been de-registered as such through the Post Office, in long ago planning for demolition. Much of this eventually gets sorted out through Twitter, to my delight and surprise!

At 21 and 23 we are nearly home.

At 21 and 23 we are nearly home.

And in mid-March are visited by some people from Power to Change.

And in mid-March are visited by some people from Power to Change.

Along with the Nationwide Foundation they are funding this phase of our building, thank you.

Some Power to Change people film us too. Joe Farrag, resident and CLT member here talking on Ducie Street.

Some Power to Change people film us too. Joe Farrag, resident and CLT member here talking on Ducie Street.

We've added under stairs storage to this phase of houses.

We’ve added under stairs storage to these new houses.

Looking gorgeous.

Looking beautiful now and waiting for their humans.

I get so emotional when I see these long empty spaces nearly turning into people’s homes. It reminds me that one of my raging passions has always been about how can you have a life you can do anything with if you don’t have a home? That homes are not primarily about markets and profits, they are about people. For me and for as long as I live a decent home for us all will always be a human right that I will work for, talk for, write for and be an activist for. Social housing, it’s what I do. And I’ve so loved doing it in so much careful detail here in Granby.

I love the purpose of doing this, but also the details. Constricting a doorway in no19.

Loving the purpose of doing this, but also the minutiae. Constructing a doorway in no19.

Then John Davey pays us his second only visit.

John is the ‘social investor’ who found us when looking for something active and meaningful to do with his money.

John Davey, bottom right.

John Davey, bottom right.

With Erika Rushton, Chair of the CLT, Tracey Gore of Steve Biko Housing, our managing agents, Frank Hont, Cabinet member for housing and  of course Ann O’Byrne, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool City Council.

Given that John describes himself as a ‘libertarian economist’ you can only imagine the liveliness of the discussion between us all. But of course it’s a simple fact that without John’s half a million loan to the CLT none of us would be sat here in friendly argument today.

Finally we go on site to clear up and repair 'The Corner'

Finally we go on site to clear up and repair ‘The Corner’

We'll be landscaping this before we turn it into some kind of shop and workspace.

We’ll be landscaping this before we turn it into some kind of shop and workspace.

And even though it’s a warm winter, relatively speaking, it’s too cold for Granby Workshop to keep working in the former newsagent’s on Granby Street with no heating and a hole in the roof.

So we move them temporarily into one of our houses.

So we move them temporarily into one of our houses.

Dave and Steve from Penny Lane Builders come in to sort out the door nobs and handles being made here that they now need for the nearly completed two houses.

In an Arts and Crafts house that William Morris would probably recognise.

In an Arts and Crafts house that William Morris would probably recognise.

All taking place, don’t forget, in houses scheduled for demolition as obsolete for most of the past several decades.

The door is now opening to a future.

The door is now opening to a future.

That we are making ourselves.

That we are making ourselves.

Look.

Look.

19 Cairns dry now and catching up.

19 Cairns dry now and catching up.

And every week we sit and talk.

And every week the full site management team sit and talk.

Hazel, Joe, Steve, David Haime QS and me. 3:00 Thursday afternoons, without fail. Doing the running of our social housing site.

And so 21 and 23 are pretty much done.

And so 21 and 23 are pretty much done.

Granby Workshop bring in their more than finishing touches.

Granby Workshop bring in their more than finishing touches.

The Granby Rock fireplaces, door knobs, handles and work surfaces.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool visits.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool visits.

And Maria Eagle of the Shadow Cabinet.

And Maria Eagle of the Shadow Cabinet.

While i delight in the detail.

While I delight in the detail.

Observing the carefully painted split between 21 and 23 I remind everyone of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s ‘My Pink Half of the Drain Pipe.’ No one. as it turns out, knows what I’m talking about.

At last we've pushed our way onto 'The Corner'

At last we’ve pushed our way onto ‘The Corner’

Putting on the insulation here.

Putting on the insulation here.

And 21 and 23 Cairns Street are ready.

And 21 and 23 Cairns Street are ready.

Ready for their humans.

Ready and waiting to be lived in.

Granby on site - 64 Granby on site - 68 Granby on site - 67 Granby on site - 66 Granby on site - 65

Ready for the lives that will now happen in these places that would never have been lived in again but for the decades long determination of the people of Granby.

19 Cairns Street may be 3 weeks away from finishing.

19 Cairns Street, probably 3 weeks away from finishing.

But the others are ready for their humans.

But the other homes are ready for their humans.

Next day some humans turn up.

Next day some humans turn up to see what we’ve done. Bob Thust from funders Power to Change with his family.

Funders, supporters, friends, people. It might have changed its shape, but this is how you do social housing in the 21st century.

So there you are, ‘social housing in the 21st century. Deliberately continuing Granby’s traditional mixed tenure approach to who comes and lives here. Across the Four Streets all of the partners, including the City Council and two housing associations, turning the best part of 200 long empty properties back into homes. For social rent, for sale, for co-ownership, for a mutual home ownership group and for individual homesteaders doing ‘homes for £1.’ One of the great joys of my life.

After Easter we’ll start the next 3 houses and also go on site on the former corner shop that’s for the Granby Workshop, the first of the Four Corners that are our next priority. All to be continued on here.

Also see ‘How to do Social Housing: Part One’

 

 

8 thoughts on “How to do Social Housing: Part Two

  1. jbaird

    Love, love, love this post. Again, congratulations are in order for the tremendous accomplishments you and yours have achieved. Well done!

    Reply
  2. robertday154

    Going back to the question, “Is it Art?”, the best answer I can think of is: “If you set out to make it art, then it is.” A bottom-line first property developer would not carry out the redevelopment, even the exact same development of the exact same houses, in the way that you, and the CLT and Assemble have done. Even if they brought in a Designer to embellish parts of the project, their view would always be to the bottom line, towards monetising any creative input that went beyond the mere bricks and mortar,

    Instead, you have worked with the community, taking into account the wish of the community to have a space for living that goes beyond just four walls and a roof, which reflects the aspirations of that community for living space that reflects their own humanity, their hopes and desires; and that has to include space for decoration and creativity – in other words, Art.

    Art is about the human vision of how to express feelings about the world, the environment and the community. A coldly commercial developer could have had the most prestigious architects and designers, but if they’d bulldozed the land and erected identikit houses, even if they were of the highest standards of design, they would not be art. All of you involved in the Granby 4 Streets project have had, before anything else, a vision of those streets being lived in, in ways that reflect the tastes and influences of the occupants, ways that go beyond what chain suppliers’ hanging baskets people choose or what brand of car or bike they choose to park outside the houses. This is real art, starting from the ground up, and it will develop and evolve over the coming years instead of being imposed and limited in scope and quantity by what an establishment thinks should be appropriate to that part of Granby.

    There’s an internet meme that you may have seen – “Beware of Artists. They are the most dangerous, because they talk to all levels of society.” You are doing Dangerous Art, because it is involving as many people as want to be involved in it. We need more of that.

    BTW, are “door nobs” posher than “door knobs”? 😉

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hadn’t realised it was spelt wrong. But they are posh, so I think I’ll leave it that way!

      And thank you for your kind comments about our from the ground up art. I do think these houses come filled with the wishes and dreams of all the people who’ve worked for them and on them over many years, so there is an art and a deep caring in that. As well as the danger and, frankly, anarchy in a good way it’s taken for us to get here.

      Reply
  3. Cathy Alderson

    My Pink Half of The Drainpipe!! I remember that! Loved the Bonzo’s. Gorilla. What an album. We used to sing the songs in The Cracke, along with loads of Dylan and Country Joe and The Fish’s Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag, great times.

    Reply

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