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PRESS RELEASE – Pioneer ‘Offices into Homes’ group buy first property despite risks.

 PHOTO OP of CONTRACT EXCHANGE with prospective residents and project members at the said property,  

22 Battens Lane Bristol BS58TQ - 2pm 23rd September


A group set up to prove that ordinary people can refurbish office buildings, create social housing communities and produce a modest return for investors is exchanging contracts on their first property. 22 Battens Lane in St George’s BS5,   a disused warehouse and office will be converted to 6 flats for around 10 people by the group ‘Abolish Empty Office Buildings, House People’
 Battens Lane photo


AEOB House People Founder Tony Crofts, indefatigable veteran of two previous community housing schemes says “Once the first example is built in Bristol, it could be reproduced all over the country and start producing the housing which will cure the national housing crisis”
Elinor Kershaw is a hopeful resident and mother of Alice aged five. She says “I’m tired of paying over the top rent in the private sector for inadequate housing. This house is well placed for local schools and bus routes; it’s a quiet residential area close to the cycle path and Troopers Hill Nature Reserve where there are many community activities.”
“We’re not just a bunch of strangers” adds Elinor a member of the prospective residents group. “We’ll be able to share resources, from washing machines to solar panels. Our outdoor space will be for play, food growing and a shared vehicle”. This will please neighbours who registered concerns over on-street parking when the previous owners applied for and obtained planning permission for conversion to residential.
The organisers want to keep costs down and build a sense of shared ownership by involving residents in ‘self build’ under the supervision of a skilled professional. “I’ll be able to move in and make it mine before its ready like deciding where plug sockets go, to contribute physically if I have the skills, and hopefully to learn where I don’t” says Elinor.
But the scheme is not without risk. Whilst £230,000 has been raised so far through a community share offer, another £100,000 is needed within a month to complete the purchase. “We can complete the purchase with bridging loans” says advisor David Mowat, “but it’s cost effective if more people come forward now to buy shares in our scheme”.
There’s another hurdle. The group is racing against time to satisfy the conditions set by planners to change the building from office to residential use. The planning application will have to be renewed in mid-November if not met by then, probably with more stringent requirements and certainly extra costs.
On the plus side, AEOB house people has secured the services of experienced architects Askew Cavanna who are motivated by the same values as the group. And match funding has been agreed from Resonance Ltd, a leading social enterprise funder. Bristol  Quakers are backing the scheme also, as steering group members and investors.  Triodos Bank have also shown keen interest.
For more details see www.aeobhousepeople.org.uk and  ring
Tony Crofts on 0179265931, Elinor Kershaw on 07967641859 or Hari Beales on 07789252912

Abolish Empty Office Buildings (AEOB) aims to create affordable community housing from commercial property that has been left unused. We are based in Bristol and our first project will be here, but we hope to make our successful model available for use elsewhere.

The project aims to address the problems outlined on the issues page

We are funding our project primarily through a community share offer and will consider ethical bank loans and community grants if additional funds are needed.

Acquiring empty office buildings
Initially, we intend to buy a property which could be converted into flats of various sizes to house 10-30 people.

  • We hope the site will include outdoor space to provide leisure space and permaculture gardens to grow vegetables.
  • We aim to retrofit the building to be energy efficient, both to reduce environmental impact and to maintain low utility bills.
  • We are aiming for the housing to be run as a co-operative with outreach activities and meeting space.
  • The ideal building would have a ground floor space, such as a shop front, in which we (or the tenants) could set up a community enterprise such as a café, shop or workshop.

The AEOB team is working to find a suitable property for sale.

Develop a housing community
Our steering group has experience that will help deliver the project as both landlords and tenants.
We plan to gather a group of prospective tenants who will:

  • be diverse but share a commitment to living co-operatively.
  • be involved in shaping the project into somewhere they positively want to live.
  • contribute to further AEOB housing projects by sharing experiences and skills.

If this sounds like somewhere you would like to live, please look at our prospective residents page.

Future ambitions/projections
Once we have completed our first property, we aim to work on further projects using any profits and further community share purchases. We anticipate that we will be able to compete for bigger office buildings once we have experience setting up and running a smaller project. We envisage that some of the tenants and community groups from the first project will help with further projects.