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ReThink Homes: Building

Better Places to Live

A guest blog by Peter Burke, co-founder of our development partner, ReThink Homes

· Guest Blogs

I am Peter Burke, co-founder of A Fairer Society. Our vision is creating a fairer society, where there's plenty to go around, where everyone has a voice in the issues that affect them, and where human thriving is good for the planet.

We help people take ownership of the things that matter most to them (like housing, energy, food, transport, local business, local politics) and run them in deeply collaborative ways. Our three main areas of focus are in: developing Better Places to Live, creating Healthy Places to Work and building Thriving and Resilient Communities.

The housing development arm of A Fairer Society is ReThink Homes (originally named Co-Production Housing). Our focus is the creation of energy-efficient homes, co-designed by the people who live in them and within a community setting.

We want to create a new model for housing development: Co-Production. The process of Co-Production is at the centre of the work we are doing with Heartward. Co-Create, Co-Design, Co-Fund and finally, Co-Build. There is a plan, and you can be a part of it, but it's different to buying a home. You are self-building a dream. You are a part of a building project (but don't worry, you don't have to get your hands dirty unless you want to!).

We're also professionals who have the team to do this.

We have been working with Heartward since 2017 when we met four of its cofounders at some events we were running in East Sussex. It was the start of something fresh and visionary, like any new project, and we felt strongly aligned in our values. For both ReThink Homes and Heartward, there have been a few iterations on both sides, and our partnership has evolved, but our commitment to achieving their vision of a cohousing community remains as strong as ever.

What is Cohousing?

Cohousing is an intentional community of people sharing resources and values. Still, each has its own home and private space.

Cohousing is an alternative to traditional residential estates or apartment blocks.

There are many benefits to cohousing: it can be affordable, inclusive and diverse, is environmentally sustainable and makes it easier for older adults to age in place (that is, continue to live independently).

How projects like Heartward are what the world needs

Heartward Cohousing is precisely what the world needs, set up by a group of people directly taking action on the problems that need addressing from their point of view. They are making big decisions about their future lives.

What are the problems being addressed?

Housing Crisis

It should be no surprise that we have a housing crisis in the Uk.

The system works against many of us, with too many barriers and obstacles. As a result, too many housebuilders and developers are part of the problem rather than the solution.

Also, the cost of land means sky-high mortgage deposits and ever-increasing rent prices are likely to impact those of us caught in the crisis. And somehow, you're being told that this is your fault. Either you need to save more, or you spend too much. Systemic problems can't be easily overcome, so don't believe it is your fault. Many reasons are out of your control that make this crisis nearly unsolvable in its current guise.

We have a fighting chance when people work together for a common cause.


It won't be much fun if you feel lonely or isolated in your neighbourhood. The place you live in might make you feel disconnected from your day-to-day life and society.

Cohousing is a solution to this problem. Connectedness and being part of a community are built in from day one. Being with your neighbours is what it's about, but you also have a front door and private space when you need to be with your family or on your own.

Energy & Climate

Climate change adds more pressure to an already heightened energy crisis. But, unfortunately, while you may want to do more, being ecological is tough. Whether for financial reasons or because other stresses are taking precedence, many of us don't have the option to be greener and the systems around us don’t make it easy either.

We are in alignment with Heartward Cohousing's ideas and solutions that the community deals with this as much as possible. For example, from the design of the buildings, using renewable technologies, reducing waste, growing food, or sharing in the costs associated. This means you can reduce the money spent in simple but effective ways whilst a collective approach to treading lighter on the planet suddenly becomes more manageable.

Car Culture

The convenience of the car means that people opt for driving over walking or riding a bike. In addition, communities are now being built with cars in mind instead of in a way that encourages us to make healthier transport choices. Compounded by the fact public transport in most parts of the UK is now substandard.

Many people are trying to elicit positive change in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. However, they find themselves up against convenience culture. Heightened by the landscape surrounding poor public transport doesn't help either. Only when we come together to use our voices and take action can we start to make real change. We love that Heartward's approach of carpooling, and car sharing, could reduce by half the number of cars a traditional development would cater for.

So where are we now, and what's next?

ReThink Homes is busy securing land opportunities and working with Heartward on the developmment process in the way any house builder would. Feasibility is critical, and for any land found a feasibility study will be applied. There are many ways to get what you want, but we can only help Heartward build what's affordable to them and the broader group of people they bring in.

This is where the principles of projects like Heartward - to be Socially Positive, Ecologically Regenerative and Financially Sustainable - can easily get lost. Most housebuilders don't consider such principles, so it would be easy for them to say the project is not affordable. We as Heartward’s developer, aim to do the best we can to include these principles and pillars.

We at ReThink Homes are confident in our relationship with Heartward, and already have invested considerable time and money in the project. We are taking financial risks upfront with the feasibility studies amongst other things and we'll only get paid on completion.

We are really close to finding land and excited about what's going to happen soon. We hope that you will join Heartward and us on this journey.