As the cost of living crisis exacerbates the isolation felt during the pandemic, some people are exploring different ways of living together.

East Anglia is home to many housing collectives and co-operatives where people live together with shared resources and core values – known as intentional communities.  

Eastern Daily Press: The Loke Community is an intentional community in MundesleyThe Loke Community is an intentional community in Mundesley (Image: Charles Bliss / Newsquest)

Established in 2014, the Loke Community is located in a three-acre wooded meadow near Mundesley.

It comprises a communal house with individual accommodation pods and caravans.

The idea was spawned at camp, an event held for a few weeks each year where dozens of people congregate, cook food over a fire and participate in activities like dancing, music, yoga and storytelling. 

“We spontaneously said: let’s do the community here,” says Graeme Malone, 63. “It should be a 24/7 lifestyle.” 

The Loke Community motto is ‘Live simply, simply live’ and applicants must demonstrate they are capable of compromise and tolerance while agreeing to attend daily meetings.  

“We commit to do our best to come to check-in every morning, to dinner every evening, and to share the work,” says Will Mailes, 77. 

Protocols have been established to deal with conflict resolution, with an emphasis on clear communication. 

“For me, the most important thing in life is connection,” Will says. “Living with people does bring things up, like family issues, which can be quite a challenge. But we’ve had some wonderful, heart-rending moments together.” 

Another benefit is the reduction in the cost of living. Members pay just £60 a month for food bought from Riverford Organic Farmers and wholefood collective Suma. 

“I live on £13,000 a year,” Will says. “I run a car, I’m a member of the golf club, and I’m doing fine financially. It is certainly much better to live in a group. 

“It’s just a more logical and enjoyable way of living,” he adds. “You’re out of the rat race. You don’t have to work five days a week just to pay the rent.” 

Fran Gore, 57, a therapist who lives in a caravan onsite, rented in London for 35 years. 

“I hated having to pay off some landlord’s mortgage,” she says. “This is great because we pay into the Loke Community – not just one person is benefiting.” 

Eastern Daily Press: The Loke Community recently built its own walkway in the trees offering views of the North SeaThe Loke Community recently built its own walkway in the trees offering views of the North Sea (Image: Charles Bliss / Newsquest)

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The community has an approach called ‘guardian angel’, in which everyone works on a project for one person, including everything from building furniture and home maintenance to creating a chicken run and installing a walkway in the trees. 

“More is possible,” says Fran. “If we could do that with the whole world – all of us doing something together rather than people individually struggling on their own – then that's a different world, isn't it?” 

Eastern Daily Press: Members of Angel Yard, a proposed co-housing community in the heart of Norwich, at their allotmentMembers of Angel Yard, a proposed co-housing community in the heart of Norwich, at their allotment (Image: Andreas Goldner)

A new co-housing project in Norwich recently submitted its planning application to Norwich City Council.

If approved for construction, Angel Yard on Sussex Street will feature 34 sustainable private homes as well as communal spaces.

“Co-housing is a well-established system, particularly in North America and Scandinavia,” says member Lucy Hall, 66. 

A common house and kitchen will provide a setting for shared meals, group activities and celebrations, while multi-purpose spaces will allow homeworkers to hot desk. 

Plans also include a shared laundry room, bike store and guest rooms. Pool cars and a workshop with tools will be available for all residents to use, as well as a garden and allotment.  

Eastern Daily Press: Lucy Hall, member of Angel Yard co-housing project in NorwichLucy Hall, member of Angel Yard co-housing project in Norwich (Image: Lucy Hall)

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Lucy, who has lived in communal houses in London, says that shared facilities are integral to encouraging interactions, building trust and generating a genuine sense of community.  

“The pandemic has sharpened some people’s thinking,” she says. “Neighbourliness is really important. Lots of us live quite a distance from our families and good neighbours can help out."

The initiative has attracted applications from those moving towards retirement who are seeking alternative modes of living after their children have left home. 

“Pople want to join for different reasons,” Lucy says. “For some, it's not wanting to be isolated. For others, there's a strong ecological impetus. Energy-efficient buildings will individually save us money, as well as being good for the planet. 

“Lastly, what could be nicer than coming home from work and finding someone else has cooked your meal? It just makes sense on so many levels.”