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

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…

I’ll go to the foot of our stairs

Building work at Chester Road has been going on apace – with the new staircase in, the loft conversion is really taking shape.

Getting the stairs in means we can progress more easily with the rest of the work.

Most of the major structural work has been done now, but it’s still just a shell – there’ll be a few more work days to come before we can call this an office space. And then, finally, we can stick the photocopier up there. I bet a certain person who’s been living with it in his bedroom all this time will be chuffed when that finally happens.

It’s Spring! Time to dig out the circular saw…

Forget daffodils. You really know it’s springtime when you hear the annual ad campaign by British Gas boasting about how they only just cut their prices because they like you so much and a fair world is what truly matters to them. Having said that, I’m pretty sure they were daffodils the neighbour’s cat pooped on the other day in our garden. But what has really been blossoming at MAJ housing co-op in the last few weeks is building works. After our neighbours agreed to sign the party wall agreement we have indeed started the works for the loft conversion at Chester Road, the property we currently own.

The good news is that Alec, a builder friend of ours, has agreed to do some of the work for free as a show of commitment to the principles of MAJ and Haringey Solidarity Group, the local activist group we are also involved in which will be using the loft once it’s finished. We are ever so thankful Alec.

The bad news is that Tony has started sawing through the ceiling and decided to make a hole in the roof so that the 5 stones-heavy steel beams that will support the loft can be fitted in. Using some of the grant money we received from Awards for All, we hired a company to crane the beams into the loft. We had the option to carry them up the stairs and fit them in ourselves, but Tony suggested it was safer to hire someone. Any excuse to make a hole in the roof…

Anyway, the works should keep us entertained for the next 6 months or so, during which we will learn some building skills as this was a requirement for the allocation of the grant. We are very much looking forward to this educational process. We are also full of wild, magnificent, possibly unfeasable ideas for this website, but mainly we want to look into ways of using it to advertise our office space-to-be to friendly and local activist groups.

More works took place at Terront Road, the property we have started to manage at the turn of the new year. They were mostly small repair and renovation jobs but they made the life of the co-op members who live there a lot better. Who would have thought being able to properly shut a door or to shower in a dry, unmouldy bathroom would make such a difference?

Finally, because too much is not enough, we are on the look out for properties near Chester Road and have even started thinking about ways to raise money. The aim is to get a place where the co-op members who do not currently live at Chester Road could all live together in a house we own, not just manage. What can I say, there’s just no stopping us. We’re like that at Mary Ann Johnson housing co-op. Today Chester Road, tomorrow the world!