It's a new home, it's a new life and I'm feeling good!

"If you’d asked us that ten years ago we would have said no," says, Jan, Sylvia, Jean and Dermot collectively when asked if they would recommend One Housing to family or friends. But today, as they sit in their new home reminiscing about their days sharing a house as a community, the answer is a resounding "Yes"!

"If you’d asked us that ten years ago we would have said no,” says, Jan, Sylvia, Jean and Dermot collectively when asked if they would recommend One Housing to family or friends. But today, as they sit in their new home reminiscing about their days sharing a house as a community, the answer is a resounding "Yes"!

 
Jan, Sylvia, Jean (pictured) and Dermot used to live at Crescent Road in Kingston as a community of 21 adults and three children. The property was one of two communities originally owned by Patchwork Housing Association, founded in 1972 by a Franciscan monk who wanted to create communal properties for a ‘patchwork’ of people who would “live supportively together”. Sisters Sylvia and Jan had lived at Crescent Road for 37 years, while Dermot, originally from Ireland, had lived in the community for 30 years and Jean for 10 years.
 
Their time spent in the house was a happy and memorable experience. In 2005, Community Housing Association took over Patchwork and later became One Housing. Unsurprisingly residents were keen to be left alone and launched a petition and high profile campaign to stay which attracted media interest as well as support from local councillors and public figures including Russell Brand, Zac Goldsmith MP and comedian Josie Long.

However, after the initial outcry and court hearing, residents agreed to meet with One Housing representatives, led by project manager Peter Blake, and a long process of discussing the future and exploring other housing options began. As time passed and our intentions to rehouse everyone who was entitled to social housing were spelled out in more detail, residents began to realise that they were not simply facing homelessness with no other options available. 

Careful assessment of each resident’s housing needs and wishes followed as Peter and his team began to offer alternative homes from One Housing’s stock of properties. In some cases residents said they wanted to live alone, in other cases groups wanted to continue to live together with Jan, Sylvia, Dermot and Jean chosing to continue living together at the same address, each in their own self-contained flat. “The community campaigned hard and no one can deny that,” says Peter as the project to relocate everyone draws to a close. “It was their chosen way of living and to have someone knock on your door and tell you that things have to change is hard. The resident’s whole core belief was around communal living and that’s something we’ve worked very hard to try to understand and to respect.”

“I worked at Kingston hospital for 22 years and I’m now retired,” says Jan.” At first I didn’t want to move. Crescent Road was my home and home meant community life. When we were served with the notice to quit it was very scary - we all thought we were going to end up homeless.” 

Dermot, an active member of the community, who like everyone enjoyed communal living but is now very happy and content in his new home adds, “This [new place] is probably the best solution for us. I do miss community life though - I loved having the one big kitchen as opposed to our individual ones.” Jan and Sylvia laugh at this but agree to disagree. Jean is an events organiser who runs the Green Futures field at Glastonbury. “It feels nice to be in this flat now. I feel sad about losing the community but I can live on my own and I’m lucky to have lots of friends in Kingston. My son was raised here and I volunteer frequently so everything is in easy reach. “My new home makes me feel happy. I like to be able to spread my things around, and I have a new space age electric cooker and I’m just getting to grips with it. Now, I feel secure in my home, though my rent is higher because I’m living alone. Only time will tell how secure I feel here and what life will be like at Brunswick Road.”

Sylvia is a care assistant and works locally so she wanted and needed to stay in the area if she had to leave Crescent Road. She said: “It’s absolutely lovely to have my own place. I sleep a lot better now - I’m not woken up by other members of the house. I walk to work and my daughter is just around the corner. I’m very happy that I’m still in Kingston and that was important to me and I was worried about that when we were told we’d have to leave Crescent Road.” They can all agree that the support from One Housing has been great once initial suspicions began to fall away. Sylvia said: “The support from Peter and his team has been excellent. They’ve been great, not for getting rid of communities but for helping us to move on,” said Jean.

Peter came to meet us frequently and kept us informed. We gave him a hard time most of the time but he was very much himself, open and honest throughout the whole process” adds Jan. “If I’d know the whole process would’ve been like this, I would’ve agreed to move ages ago. 

Reflecting on what has been an almost two-year long project for him and his team, Peter said: “I’m glad they’ve got this place. It’s a very nice house. It was a passion to get them moved into suitable accommodation. I promised to make the best of what we had and I believe we have achieved the best possible outcomes for the residents.” Jan, Sylvia, Dermot and Jean meanwhile are still in touch with other members of the community so helping to preserve the friendships and links they built over many years living together. They meet regularly and host dinners and, like the Brunswick Road residents, are positive about the future. The road to get here may have been bumpy but, thanks to working together with One Housing, most are in agreement that the path ahead looks bright and that their community will stay strong, albeit no longer under the same roof. 

Meanwhile, back at Crescent Road, One Housing plans to carry out a thorough survey once all the residents have moved on to identify all the repairs and other work necessary to ensure the property continues to support our aim of providing as many affordable homes as possible. Options could include refurbishment or rebuilding with either new and improved homes being made available to those on lower incomes or potentially sold to help raise funds for other affordable housing developments across London.