Back to the mid 1950s, when after the second world war there was a need for pleasant modern housing at affordable prices, a group of people living in north London decided to form an association to provide themselves with homes.
The idea being that with their collective strengths as mainly professional people, they would have a better chance of achieving the goal of a house. The group were like minded in that they wished to build, something modern and ideally in north London.
The association they formed was a Housing Association which in these circumstances was an entirely novel solution. Until this time the only associations were the likes of the Octavia Hill Trust which had been around for many years.
The process of achieving their goal was little easier then than it is today although land was not quite so sought after by developers. After many false starts a site was found in SW19 (south London). Unfortunately, as much time had gone by at this stage, all of the original members, had by then, bought their own houses.
Having got this far the committee did not draw back from the project, a major reason being that many of the committee were Jews who had fled from Nazi Germany and felt an obligation to give something back to the country that had given them refuge.
By about 1960 the site in Wimbledon was purchased and building work was under way for 11 houses and 6 flats. Amazingly Wates the builders agreed to fund the whole operation leaving Housing Partnership, as it was now called, to sell the properties. There was an element of altruism in the project, as the properties were all sold at below the market prices of the time - the true spirit of a Housing Association.
The scheme, which was to become known as Roundacre, due to its shape and area, was designed by Architects Co- Partnership which was at the time one of the best known modernist practices in the country. The 7 partners had formed the practice in the 1930s at the time of the Bauhaus and the development of the modern movement.
Because of the novelty of the concept there was a certain amount of publicity from the press. At the time the BBC ran a magazine type programme, which featured the scheme and the secretary was interviewed for the programme by the presenter Fyfe Robertson, who was well known at the time. There was a great deal of enthusiasm amongst the committee because of the success of Roundacre. It was decided to look for a further project and this came through land found in New Malden and an interesting courtyard type of solution was again designed by ACP.
On this occasion the funding was provided by the then Ministry of Housing. Also by now the general concept of housing associations was beginning to take off and within a few years there were a number of them in the field. Soon there was the formation of the Housing Corporation with the purpose of nurturing the movement and the provision of funds.
This enabled Housing Partnership (London) Ltd (which needed to be formed to take advantage of the process) to build several schemes which included amongst others, Mountacre, Heathacre, Greenacre and Bridgacre. Others are no longer under the management of HP, as the type of leases held entitled the tenants to purchase at the time the ‘ right to buy ‘ was enacted by government.
In the early days of the Housing Corporation there was encouragement for committees to include architects and engineers to look for land as they would get the projects. Mountacre and Heathacre were two schemes arising on this basis.
This all stopped as the HC became more bureaucratic and simultaneously discouraged the formation of small associations. The very essence of the movement was being killed off. Had HP, in those changing times been more commercial in its make up, it could have become one of the leading and largest associations. This was not to be and the Housing Corporation continued to squeeze out the smaller associations.
Grahame Herbert (Board Member) 03 / 2011