20 homes in the Isleworth area of the London Borough of Hounslow.
Registered office: 8 Waldegrave Road, Teddington, TW11 8GT.
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BACKGROUND OF OLD ISLEWORTH HOUSING CO-OPERATIVE (OIHC)
The history of OIHC, which started in 1985, dates back to the 1960s. A group of young, single people in outer West London came together through the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and local Folk Clubs. By the mid 1960s they began to move beyond just protesting towards practical co-operative solutions for some of their needs. The Freeman Syndicate was set up to run a range of activities. The Freeman Syndicate Fun Club was run by volunteers on every Friday evening until the early 70s in the White Hart pub in Southall. Folk, jazz, blues, poetry, comedy and drama were mixed with politics and planning new projects. A large van owned by the Syndicate was used for weekend trips and moving members between homes. Occasional concerts were promoted and, with help from Syndicate volunteers and funds, a West London magazine was produced. Many Syndicate members could not find decent affordable housing and several years of discussion led to the formation of Middlesex Housing Association (MHA) in 1969.
First attempt to house 54 people for only £10,000
The first MHA proposal, in 1969, was to lease the long-empty Railway Workers Hostel in Southall. This was to be converted into flats, a communal space, restaurant, laundry, shop and a crèche to house 54 people at a cost of £10,000. Voluntary, self-help building work was planned to make this possible without any Government subsidy. Unfortunately British Rail did not lease the building to MHA and it was left derelict for many years.
Filling up the empties
MHA members looked for other schemes and, from early 1972, set up several organisations which resulted in the first properties being obtained free of charge from Hounslow Council in early 1973. These were renovated entirely by voluntary labour and more properties were then located by volunteers carrying out empty property surveys in the Boroughs of Hounslow, Hillingdon and Ealing. Initial fundraising was aided by members saving £20 a month in loanstock issued by MHA.
Going for gold
The 1974 Housing Act made Government subsidy available so MHA began to set up permanent Housing Co-operatives for Green Dragon Lane in Brentford and Water Tower in Southall.
Temporary housing along the Twickenham Road in Isleworth
The first Hounslow Council empty property in the Isleworth area, on the Twickenham Road, was reoccupied in 1975. It had been derelict for 12 years. MHA volunteers repaired the house which then continued in ‘temporary’ use for over 30 years. More houses along the road were also used over many years, often as shared housing for single people.
Speyhawk stirs Old Isleworth
In 1982, Speyhawk Property developers started negotiating with Hounslow Council for a comprehensive redevelopment of Old Isleworth. Local residents were up in arms about the minimal public consultation and the proposed changes. Local Labour Party and MHA members campaigned to alter the proposals. By 1985 MHA had secured a deal with Hounslow Council and Speyhawk for OIHC to be set up. The only new, Government subsidised, affordable housing in the centre of Old Isleworth was to be built for OIHC
Living by Isleworth Village Green
Nine one bedroomed flats and 7 studios, completed at the end of 1989, were built on a former Council car park next to the open space used as Isleworth Village Green. These were let to single people and couples, half to temporary Twickenham Road residents and half to Council applicants.
Award winning Harcourt Cottages
The second Government subsidised new building for OIHC was a terrace of four two bedroomed houses at Harcourt Cottages. These were built next to Sermon’s Almshouses which are listed buildings. The sympathetic design was rewarded with a Civic Trust Award. New first residents, in autumn 1993, included one couple who had a child whilst living in the first OIHC scheme. The other three families were chosen by Hounslow Council through their right to nominate 75%of the tenants.
Facing the future
Government subsidy rules have changed to require private finance as well as public funding. This system now favours development by large Housing Associations, and co-ops are not encouraged to grow. This has frustrated the Co-op’s ambitions to develop further permanent schemes. Due to grant reductions in the late 1990’s a scheme in South Street, Isleworth proved to be unaffordable and was handed over to Co-op Homes to see through to completion. Unless, and until, governments of all political persuasions come to recognise the value of locally controlled, affordable social housing and invest in it accordingly then OIHC is unlikely to be in a position to develop further affordable housing schemes.