Next Steps

Now that all our current members in need of housing are finally housed, we’ve been discussing next steps. We are thinking about the financial, organisational and political issues involved in further expansion (getting more members and seeking another property), while also trying to be more ‘outward-facing’ and engaged locally. We are supporting two London groups with advice and help to set up as housing co-ops and acquire housing, and are aiming to collaborate further with other local groups and individuals around housing issues – this should (hopefully!) become easier as covid gradually recedes…

We are getting solar panels installed on two of our houses, and are looking into buying the freehold on our flat, so that our homes become more sustainable and secure.

MAJ members continue to be involved in Haringey Solidarity Group, Rebel City, St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust, PCU (the therapists’ trade union), local food co-ops and choirs. We continue to be active in Radical Routes (mainly Secretarial Working Group). We have one member currently doing the Co-op Culture Barefoot Co-op Development Training, and hopes that this can be put to good use in Radical Routes and locally.

Not much going on in the gardens at present, but our Disco Shed (built at Manor Road last summer) has been a focal point of several outdoor social gatherings during autumn and winter!

We’re looking forward to seeing more people in real life again and not just on Zoom, and hoping for better days ahead…

All Good Messy Fun… MAJ Buys New Fixer-Upper

We did it! MAJ purchased a new ground floor flat in Tottenham at the beginning of the year, securing a family home for two tenants. It is such a sense of achievement when we get another property under our belts because every home we secure takes the power and profit away from unscrupulous landlords and places it with us, the tenants. As is always the case when Mary Ann Johnson Housing Co-op buy somewhere, the new place is a real fixer upper and we are having to work hard to get it livable before our members move in. And there is always more work to be done when you get stuck into it, as we discovered when we began work on the bathroom.

Having thought it was a simple task of stripping the old tiles and replacing with new, we discovered that the plasterboard wall behind the shower was damp and unsound, so instead of just replacing tiles we will also have to remove and replace a portion of internal wall. At one point during our Sunday work day, three hammer and chisel wielding co-op members were busily ripping out tiles which was all good messy fun!

There were actually two layers of tiles! It’s a good thing we decided to replace them as we’d never have known how bad this internal wall was if we had decided to make do…

Other rooms were given a fresh lick of paint, and despite the horrific weather caused by Storm Ciara another work party busied it’s-self clearing stuff out of the rain lashed back garden.

There is still a lot more to do, from fixing the boiler to making space for a fridge (we can’t figure out where the previous tenants kept theirs – there is no space for one or sign that one ever existed in the kitchen!) and other structural issues, as well as decorating, laying floor coverings and getting it cosy. It’s a lot of work but satisfying to think that this is an affordable home to be managed by its tenants and not by greedy landlords for profit. Thank you so much as always to our funders who make all of this work possible – your generosity means one more Tottenham family have a secure and affordable home.

New Year, New Homes

Well the end of 2015 saw an exciting new development for MAJ – we bought a new property! A house with a one bedroom flat downstairs and a two bedroom flat upstairs near the Spurs ground in Tottenham… in fact as I write this I can hear the singing cheering Spurs fans which I am guessing means they won.

Essential roof work being done

We completed in late November 2015 and three of us moved in by mid December, and as it was a real fixer-upper the place was a bit of a building site. Downstairs had no bathroom and upstairs had no kitchen (or kitchen floor) so for about two and a half weeks the day would start early with drilling, plastering, walls going up, cabinets being hung, great big holes being made for great big pipes and one co-op member up on the roof making it sound so that the constant rain wouldn’t drip on our heads as we slept.

The downstairs kitchen and bathroom needed extensive work

What a palaver! But all the main work that was needed to make it habitable was done by Christmas and now those of us who live here are really loving the feeling of a secure roof over our heads for the first time. Oh, and having moved out of a completely unmodernised building, the joys of hot showers and central heating just can’t be appreciated enough.

The upstairs kitchen didn’t even have a floor!

This has been a major achievement for MAJ – we’ve been trying to get the rest of our members safely housed for years and it feels great to have three more of us under another MAJ owned roof. Thank you so much to all of those who have helped us with loanstock, gifts, advice and moral and practical support, without you this could not have happened and we are incredibly grateful. But we can’t rest on our laurels as we still have one member in a perilously vulnerable housing situation, plus more work needs to be done on the new house (some walls and doors still need putting in, and access to the garden for the top floor flat). More about that soon.

Some of our new neighbours

MAJ Office Finished!

The Chester Road loft conversion has been completed, and the Mary Ann Johnson local office for local people* is up and running and already in use! Once the plastering got done all that was required was a lick of paint, a tidy up, and the office furniture moved in. There have already been Haringey Solidarity Group meetings in the small but beautifully formed setting, and there will no doubt be more requests from local groups to follow.

A little basic to start with, but it will soon become more lived in/disorganised
We can’t stop marvelling at the plush smartness of the lovely new carpet!
We even have a colour photocopier
And let’s have a look at those windows… they make the space lovely and bright.

It’s a fantastic resource and a great space to do a bit of work in. We are absolutely chuffed to bits.

*We don’t really call it that

Work In Progress

Just needs plaster, a tidy and some decorating before the office can move in

Here are some more pics of our work in progress – the conversion of the attic of our Chester Road house into a loft. It will be used as an office for MAJ, Haringey Solidarity Group (which we’re all in) and possibly other local activists groups too. We’ve been really busy working on that all summer and it is now getting near completion. Tony has especially been putting a lot of time and effort into this, so big up to him. We’ve got the staircase installed, the electrics done, the dormer window and velux fitted in, the insulation and plasterboard done, and we’re finishing putting in the floorboards. With all that, we’re in no doubt that our next blog will proudly announce the grand opening of our office! Before we get there though, we still have a lot of plastering to do, and a radiator to install. Oh, and hope that Building Regs wont be the pain in the ass they can sometimes be and will just okay all the works… Then, we’ll need to tackle all the decoration bits (painting, carpet, etc…) and think about furnishing the room. Once that’s all done, we can have an office warming party and trash the place!

Look at those lovely windows! Much better than in our last post, eh?…
…but you still have to watch your step!

In other news, its been nearly a year since we’ve started managing the property we don’t own but that houses a few of us. And it’s been going fairly well. Lately we got gas and electricity checks done and a few other bits and bobs that improved the life of the co-op members who live there. The contract is up for renewal and we’re optimistic we can carry on acting as a managing agency, in the hope of a better outcome for the future. Finally, and because we need to house everyone in the co-op securely, we’re in the process of opening a new bank account dedicated to raising money for a new property. We made an estimation of how much we need to raise and the bank account will allow us to receive donations or loans. No doubt that once we’ve published an appeal on our shiny new website, all potential donors will contact us begging to give money. They’d better anyway as we’ll need quite a lot to top up our meagre savings. But nothing is impossible for Mary Ann Johnson housing co-op! That’s the spirit anyway…