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Works for some: The opposite of Hammerson's junk housing

Copper Lane review – London's first co-housing project strikes an elegant balance between communal living and leafy seclusion

Link to The Observer

"This sounds like the reality show from hell: seven adults and six children, not all known to each other at the start, get together to design and build six houses for themselves. They borrow money, buy a piece of land with no planning permission attached, hire architects, other professionals and a building contractor. They negotiate with each other as to who gets what bit of the project for what money.

"Six years later they move in. The builder has recently presented the final bill, making a total construction cost of £1.8m, against earlier, inevitably optimistic, estimates of £1.45m. "We've only just figured out how much each of us will pay," says one of the residents, Simon Bayly.

"Their development, called Copper Lane, has no private gardens or washing machines, but shared open spaces, a laundry and a communal room for parties, music and games, which have to be collectively managed and maintained. The project could have been a fusion of Big Brother, Changing Rooms and, for the bravado with which those involved seem to have taken on a possibly impossible task, The Apprentice. Yet, far from sinking into a stew of acrimony, they seem to be on as good terms as ever, as they discuss who gets to use the new communal leaf-blower.

"... It has the added advantage of being cost-effective, as other houses in the area of similar size can sell for 40% more than the cost of those at Copper Lane, which is not to say it's exactly the solution to southern England's notorious housing problems. It is too singular for that, the creation of an unusual group of individuals who had the advantage of having some property to start with. But, compared with the stacked-up investment units that pass for much new housing, it's an appealing model."

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