The W11 Housing Co-op: Histories


Some 179,000 people live in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. There exists here an extraordinary ethnic and cultural diversity; nearly half of the residents were born outside the UK and come from 90 countries, speaking over 100 different languages. It is the smallest borough in London but has the highest residential density. Although known as one of the wealthiest areas in the country a few wards are still considered to be within the ten per cent most deprived in England.

Based as it is around the bustle of Portobello Road and its market, the members of West Eleven Housing Co-operative, are a rich mix.  Black and white, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, European, North American, South American, African and West Indian. The oldest members are in their 70’s. The youngest in their early twenties. Some have children, some work with their hands, some work in offices, some are artists, musicians, teachers, writers or actors, some are full time parents, others are unemployed or retired. The W11 area is similarly varied in its make up. It’s a working class area, yet it’s a locale in which fairly affluent people have chosen to make their homes. Its a multi-cultural area, a notorious area, a ‘troubled area’ a ‘desirable’ area and always a bohemian area. Housing has persistently been a problem in W11. Notting Hill Housing Trust was created in the 1960’s as a response to Rachmanism: to provide affordable housing of a high quality. West Eleven Housing Co-op was formed in 1976 from a similar impulse. During the 1970’s, the Trust had become a vast organisation. West Eleven’s motive was not only to be able to provide high-quality affordable housing, but also to provide a sense of community and control over living space.

West Eleven Co-op manages 34 units in the heart of North Kensington. Itcollects rents, administers arrears control and keeps the flats maintained to a very high standard. The Co-op has built up a body of experience and expertise providing day-to-day maintenance of the properties, carrying out emergency repairs and improvements and conducting a 5-yearly cyclical maintenance. The Co-op has a number of skilled trades-people within the membership, as well as people who have acquired a wide range of administrative skills. Some of the members have utilised their acquired expertise to find employment in other housing associations. West Eleven Housing Co-op has its roots in W11’s community. The Co-op believed then and still believes, that a collective and co-operative organisation is a viable, essential alternative to the national housing and property casino. It engenders a strong sense of ‘principled living’ and community cohesion. The “Big Society” has been alive and well for 35 years here!

!!CALL FOR YOUR STORIES!! This blog is part of an ongoing project on the people, events, happenings and histories of the area of Portobello and Portobello Road in West London, UK. A forthcoming book ‘The Portobello Album’  will chart some of the projects I have worked on so far and I am keen to gather your stories, memories and ideas for me to photograph document and present, both here in the blog but also as future book, gallery or multimedia pieces. If you feel you would like to contribute please use the form at the bottom of this post or at the bottom of any other post to send me a message. If you prefer you can contact me via e-mail, telephone or through my website.  See my ‘About & Contact’ page for details. I will be in touch with you asap and hope to be able to work with you to develop ‘The Portobello Album’. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Carol Brown ( nee Robinson says:

    I look forward to reading what you eventually get together ( & ) as I grew up in the grove and can well remember many of the guys and women involved with the Metro; Powis Square; Mangrove; and how the very first Nottinghill carnival started. So I look forward to what you eventually put together

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