OCF is supporting Homes for Oxford in the search for a site for innovative affordable housing. The alliance of community housing projects put in a bid to develop the Wolvercote paper mill site, which was unsuccessful, but the group plans to build on the learning and investment for future projects.
Homes for Oxford (HfO), a coalition of several community-led housing groups, launched a ground-breaking tender to buy and develop the Wolvercote paper mill site in May. Although both versions of the bid – one solo and one with a developer – were unsuccessful, the project has laid the groundwork for the alliance to move more quickly on future opportunities.
The proposal, which can be viewed in full here, received a huge amount of support from the local community, with Homes for Oxford holding a public meeting with Wolvercote villagers that resulted in individual private citizens pledging to give nearly £520,000 towards the project if it had gone ahead. Fran Ryan of Homes for Oxford comments: “We are delighted and also grateful to have received such amazing support, and plan to build on it to create even greater momentum to secure other sites, and build a sector of community-led genuinely and permanently affordable homes in our lovely city.
“If successful, HfO would have built one third market homes, with a further third shared ownership and the rest social rent. We planned to use the Community Land Trust to ensure that the affordable homes were never subject to Right to Buy, so would have remained affordable in perpetuity. We surmise that the winning bidder has made such a high offer that there will be few, if any, genuinely affordable homes on the site.”
Homes for Oxford’s campaign also generated £1,043.75 (including Gift Aid) in direct donations from the public, which contributed towards the cost of putting the bid together. This came to £24,272, with the remainder of the cost met by a private donor facilitated by OCF.
Despite this setback, the bid is now considered a blueprint for future projects, and the paper mill initiative has proved a fruitful exercise in pulling a team together, building alliances of organisations with common interests, and coming up with creative, realistic ideas for sustainable house-building that would work for Oxford. In particular, the group intends to use their learning about the density, format, positioning and materials for effective housing to strongly inform future bids on the other possible sites for development, of which there are several in the pipeline.
OCF will continue to work with Homes for Oxford, providing a charitable structure for donations and pledges in the form of a named fund. This means that money can be raised quickly without the alliance having to become a new charity.