Sun Co-op 🌞

Sun Co-op is a housing co-operative organising to develop purpose-built communal housing and work space.

What

We are working towards building a communal house in London based on the 'Communal Villa' project by The Realism Working Group and the architecture firm Dogma. We define communal housing as a shared social living arrangement, co-operatively run, and governed by the occupants on a fully mutual basis.

Sun Co-op will house around 40 people, a number large enough to be a community, but small enough to be manageable within one building. Each member-tenant will have a large private room and bathroom, while cooking, eating, laundry, and living spaces will be shared.

The building will also house a self-contained multi-purpose work space, run separately as a worker’s co-op. It will accommodate desk work, meetings, screenings, a library, and be open to use by individuals and groups.

We will create shared gardens and growing spaces on the grounds and rooftop. We are committed to reducing the ecological impacts of life in London, and intend to build using technologies, materials, and designs that enable low-energy use in the long-term running of the co-operative.

Who

Sun Co-op is an intentional community with a shared vision to build and live in a communal and co-operative living and working environment.

We are a group of London residents hailing from the city, other parts of the UK, and Europe. A collective of freelancers, teachers, part-time and multiple-job workers in the ‘creative industries’, we work, organise, and live in disparate areas of London. Currently a group of 8, we intend to expand and are open to people of different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, and experiences who share our vision.

The group initially bonded over research into alternative ways of building housing and organising living and working arrangements in the city. We visited the self-build houses of Walters Way, and met with tenants of existing housing co-ops in London including Sanford and Coin Street. We found our ideas focus around the 'Communal Villa', which poses a solution to balance the need for both solitude and communality in living and working.

Why

London is our home, and we want to stay here long term. We are against the unending transience of shifting further and further outwards, or even from city to city, chasing affordable rent. The co-operative housing model offers long-term domestic security by sharing the financial responsibility between members. Tenants collectively set the rent, which goes towards the running costs, improvements, repairs, and repaying loans taken to pay for the build. This mutual control and pooling of resources works against the precarity and dis-empowerment of private rental, and offers a social alternative to personal home ownership. The land we build on will be effectively locked out of the destructive landscape of property speculation, and instead maintained as social asset in perpetuity.

We have a common consciousness about exploring different ways of living together, experimenting with models outside of the traditional family home or atomised individual occupancy. The majority or existing domestic spaces are organised around the family unit, so it is necessary to build a house specifically designed for multiple individuals and families to comfortably co-exist as a community.

Where

Though the majority of us live in South East London, we are not all part of any one geographically-defined community, meaning we are excluded from much of the debate around community and locality. We would like to open up what can constitute a community in a city full of precariously and temporarily housed people.

We are interested in building on under-used or infill sites to increase the density of existing land and infrastructure. The scale of our project is suitable to a plot that may not make a financially viable investment for a large profit-driven developer, but this is not our motive.

How

The building costs will be funded through loans from existing housing co-ops, root stock loans, and ethical bank loans. It would be ideal to purchase land, but if this is out of our reach we will aim to get a long term lease on land from a council or other public body.

We are consulting and collaborating with experts in relevant fields, and successful similar projects. Without prior architectural or land development experience, but with resourcefulness and creativity, we hope to exemplify that well designed and managed housing can be achieved by anyone. This is a relatively small scale experiment, and we would like it to have the potential to be replicated by others, so are documenting our process and are committed to share our learning, as others have been sharing theirs with us.