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By Hannah Connolly
ast month, plans for the UK’s first women only tower block was approved by Ealing Council.
Set to consist of 102 individual units, the plans are headed up by the Women’s Pioneering Housing (WPH) association. An organisation first established by suffragettes in the 1920’s who recognised the importance of providing women with quality and affordable housing of their own as part of the pursuit of equality.
To date, the association has around 1,000 properties within its portfolio, largely in West London. With the majority of homes being studio or one bedroom flats in converted Edwardian and Victorian larger buildings.
The aim of WPH today is to continue in the mission to provide high quality homes and to also support women with indepence and to grow as a leading voice in the issues women face in accessing housing.
The block of flats now slated for development will feature deeper than usual balconies, lower work surfaces and speicalised ventilation systems to make women experiencing menopause more comfortable.
Ealing Council approved the application back in May and the development will mean the leveling of an existing collection of homes called Brooke House. Situated close to Acton tube station, the current site features low-rise, mostly family homes.
Existing tenants will be allowed back into the new construction, but will be temporarily rehomed during the building phase. Though, this has raised concerns from current residents who fear the process may take a long time, or the finished units may be too small for themselves and their families.
Concerns too were raised by local neighbours and businesses owing to the size of the planned block of flats and the impacts this may have on the environment.
However, it was ruled such concerns were not sufficient blocks to the green light. With the approval committee stating “exemplary design” as being a key factor in the progression of the site's development.
Set to take on the task is architecture firm GRID who had this to say on the plans: “This project seeks to create a sense of community for 102 vulnerable women in a new build development… the project is 100% affordable.”
The homes are stipulated to be generous in size and consist of one and two bed spaces, which will be situated amongst landscaped gardens and trees. As well as access to a communal rooftop terrace on the 10th floor.
According to WPH policies, any woman “female by birth”, or with a “gender recognition certificate,” as well as transgender women and non-binary persons can join the waitlist.
The focus of this development is in the creation of high standard housing particularly for women facing domestic abuse, or other dangers, as well as women from minority backgrounds.
Though the work for women’s access to affordable housing has been at the core of the WPH’s work for over a century, 2021 reports of the growing pay-gap in London made the development a key focus for the organisation. With women in the capital earning 30.4% less than men – a figure almost double the national average gap elsewhere in the UK.
This pairing with further research which has shown rising house prices and the gender pay gap has meant that there is no English region where a single woman on median earnings can afford to rent or buy an averagely priced house.
In a tweet thread last month, from the BBC’s Woman’s Hour announcing the development being granted users took to the comments to share their opinions.
“Segregation will only lead to divisions in our society,” said one user. Within the responses and across all media platforms a strong anti-trans rhetoric is also in abundance. It seems the very thing that makes this development a landmark move, is the same thing that is causing it to receive both admiration and anger in equal measure.
A total of 102 affordable homes for women have been approved by Ealing Council in what will be a landmark development for the UK
By Hannah Connolly
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