They want to live together in a co-housing community for over-50s. Can it work?
The group plotting an "intentional community" in south Manchester
Dear Millers — it’s happening in Denmark and Sweden and Stroud, so why can’t it work in Manchester? Today we meet a committed group of Mancunians who are planning to all move in together as part of a co-housing development for people over the age of 50. They have been on field trips to successful projects and have identified suitable sites, but in our hyper-individualised society, will they be able to recruit enough people who want to give up their privacy and freedoms and sign up for joint decision-making and the joys of communal life? And what are the other barriers to living together like this? Mollie went to find out.
Also in today’s edition:
Big news is breaking today about the future of HS2.
Phil Griffin visits two art exhibitions in town.
And we recommend some great things to do this weekend.
As always, this is a members-only edition of The Mill, but regular Millers can still view a few bits at the top to keep them up to date. If you’re not a member yet, join up now to read Mollie’s co-housing piece and get access to all our paywalled journalism and our members-only events.
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In this week’s particularly homespun episode, Jack and Joshi are in the Mill office talking about Graham Brady, the highly influential MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who has decided to stand down at the next election. Plus: what the latest of Matt Hancock’s leaked WhatsApps tell us about how governing is done, and a strange video of some skateboarders in Manchester that has gone viral on Twitter.
You can listen to that here.
Your Mill briefing
Big news just as we publish: Key sections of the already-delayed HS2 rail lines may be further delayed to reduce costs, reports the BBC. Rumours were already stirring last week due to the rising cost of the project — originally expected to be £33bn but with one estimate now putting it over £100bn. The delays are expected to mostly affect sections between Manchester and Crewe. “Some critics of the project, who believe the money could be better spent elsewhere, would like to see the railway scrapped or scaled back north of Birmingham,” says the BBC story. “Another rumoured option is not to build a new line between Crewe and Manchester.” Reacting to the news, the former Treasury economist and longtime Miller JP Spencer tweeted: “This is simply the wrong call. Constant reviews and delays are going to mean the project costs more in the long run. It is symptomatic of government's short term thinking.”
Sir Graham Brady — the MP for Altrincham and Sale West for 26 years and chairman of the influential 1922 committee of Tory MPs — will be standing down at the next election. Thanks to the turmoil in the Conservative Party in recent years, Brady has become well-known as the man to whom letters of no-confidence are sent by MPs who want a new leader. His decision to bow out of politics is a blow to the Tories, suggesting that leading MPs are expecting to be wiped out by Labour (“I think that seat is fucked,” as one Westminster lobby hack put it to us). It’s also further confirmation of how Trafford is changing politically. We’re running a profile of Brady this weekend, so please send your tips, gossip and anecdotes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re getting another food hall, or whatever the correct word is for these massive multi-operator venues that are proliferating in the city. DieCast, a new 5,000-capacity venue in the old Presbar Diecasting Foundry between Store Street and Ducie Street, is set to open this summer, promising to be “one of the most exciting destinations on the planet”. It looks like there will be food, drink, parties and space for big events and shoots. Who is behind it? A Very Inc, whose directors are also involved in other big restaurants and bars like Albert’s Schloss, Trof, Gorilla, Ramona and the Firehouse. Last month, in our update about how the hospitality business is doing in Manchester, we noted that a group of operators seem to be consolidating their hold on the sector. DieCast appears to be the latest example of that.
Afzal Khan, Labour MP for Gorton, has asked the government when it might get around to rebuilding North Manchester General Hospital, mentioning that some operating theatres recently had to close for six weeks due to a ceiling collapse. The hospital is considered to be one of the highest priority cases in the country, based as it is in a Victorian workhouse infirmary. One clinician at the hospital told us staff there are “desperate to crack on” with the rebuild. “If north Manchester was in Hale, there would be rather more noise being made about it,” they told us. “We took Boris around in 2019, coming on four years ago. Back then the cost was around £500m. Now it would be more like £900m.”
They want to live together in a housing cooperative. Why is that so hard?
By Mollie Simpson
“You have to sign up to make the place work,” Sian, 67, says after I ask what kind of person you need to be to live in an “intentional community”. “But you don't have to sign up to be happy, jolly extroverts, seven days a week.”
“That would be a pain, wouldn’t it?” Lydia says, a twinkle in her eye, and Sian laughs. To my right, Vera nods. The women are part of a group called Manchester Urban CoHousing, or MUCH, and their idea is to create a radically new way of living for older people in Manchester. The plans are based on the “intentional community” model, defined online as “a voluntary residential community which is designed to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork from the start.”
In practice, each resident will be the owner or renter of their own private home within the development, with shared gardens and a communal space for socialising and regular general meetings. So far, ten people have joined the group, eight women and two men, and another man is in talks about joining, a process I imagine to be very similar to the negotiations to sign a Premier League footballer.
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