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.
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.
We’re busy all day with radio and television.
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.
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.
A couple of nights later we have a party. Well you would, wouldn’t you?
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.
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.
During the course of this job Penny Lane have five young local apprentices working on the site.
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!
The demolition squad have finished and left a pile of old building behind them.
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.
Getting the water back on after a gap of 20 years or so will be another matter, but we’ll come back to that.
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.
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.
(No apologies to TS Eliot.)
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!
Along with the Nationwide Foundation they are funding this phase of our building, thank you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All taking place, don’t forget, in houses scheduled for demolition as obsolete for most of the past several decades.
Hazel, Joe, Steve, David Haime QS and me. 3:00 Thursday afternoons, without fail. Doing the running of our social housing site.
The Granby Rock fireplaces, door knobs, handles and work surfaces.
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.
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.
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’