Roxborough Housing Co-op in Colchester, Essex is one of CHISEL’s valued outlier co-ops. It has a successful history of co-operation as Annie Mayes, resident and CHISEL tenant explains – see below the pictures:

We were the first Self Build scheme for the disabled in the country. Once all five families who wanted to self build got together as a group in 1992,  building began in 1994, but not before we all had a year of monthly workshops and meetings with a training officer to develop the skills required relating to self build and the running of a Housing Co-operative.

Each family had a member/s with a physical disability so this was going to be no easy task but the opportunity to design and build our own homes which would be suitable for our differing individual needs was too good to pass up. It would give us all security and the ability to lead independent lives.

The build was intended to take 15 months. Each self builder committed to 21 hours work per week and would be supported by volunteers. Sadly the volunteers did not materialise so we were left with 4 male residents to build 5 bungalows. This was because one of the families were both wheelchair users and hence could not physically participate with the build so they looked after all the administration. A meeting took place and it was decided that this family would move in last and the other self builders would collectively build their home as they went along as well as their own.

This of course increased the work load, the four men all had full time jobs and caring responsibilities at home so this was going to be tough to say the least. As each of three of the men lost their respective jobs they all worked full time on site, 80 hours a week, seven days a week, no holidays-only Christmas Day off-, no social life just utter commitment to finishing the job in hand. With the dedicated help of a hands on contracts manager who lived and worked with us right to the end we finished 2 years later and came in under budget.

Although we were a small group we were also a unique group but we did have a common bond in as much as we all understood the effects that having a disability has on every day life and each other.

That said though, as in all walks of life from family life, school life, the workplace or the wider political world, we all had different backgrounds, our own opinions, principles, personalities and ideas. Yes there have been differences and personality clashes, but at the end of the day the chance to build your own home is what brings all self builders together in the first place, isn’t it?

So here we all are still together as a co-operative, I think we all would agree that for any project, whether large or small, the key must be communication, listening, compromise and patience and this leads to the important part, the ability to work as a team for the success of the ultimate goal, a lovely home, the ability to have input into the management of your home and pride in that achievement.

Annie Mayes, Roxborough Housing Co-operative

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