In 1984, thirty families moved into their new homes in Grafton Crescent from Caryl Gardens, a Liverpool City Council tenement block scheduled for demolition.
It had been a long road for those families since the Co-op was first formed in 1979. The story of Grafton Crescent Housing Co-op began earlier that year when Maureen Duffy, a resident of Caryl Gardens and an employee of Southern Neighbourhood Council, was introduced to Paul Lusk. Paul worked for Co-operative Development
Services (CDS) and had already been involved with the development of Housing Co-ops on Merseyside (most notably Weller Streets). He was very passionate about communities taking control of their housing situations,
and was keen to work with Caryl Gardens residents to develop a Housing Co-op. The driving forces behind the Co-op were founder members, Joe Edeie, Mick Ryan, Jimmy McKenna and Jimmy Pettit. Canvassing began in Caryl Gardens and within a couple of months the Co-op had 30 families in membership. Early Co-op meetings took place in the Highland Home, on the corner of Hill Street and Sefton Street before the Co-op moved to an office in the
ground floor of Caryl Gardens.
The Co-op identified a narrow strip of land on Grafton Street, owned by the Council, which was being used as a football pitch for local young people. In late 1980, the founder members attended a Council meeting in the Town Hall. The meeting was held to discuss transferring the ownership of the identified land to the Co-op. However, the
application was rejected. Jimmy McKenna, one of the founder members told us, “We were very disheartened at the decision. We believed it was politically motivated because the Co-op had been supported by a local Liberal Councillor, and the ruling Labour Group opposed our plans because of this connection. We went to the Pier Head after the meeting, and the Co-op Treasurer, Jimmy Pettit, bought us all a cup of tea out of Co-op funds. This was very unusual because Jimmy was always very careful with Co-op money!”
The fight continued however, and with the support of Paul Lusk and CDS, the Co-op carried on with their campaign to acquire the land. This eventually culminated in a report being presented to Government in 1981. Shortly afterwards, the Housing Corporation awarded the Co-op the required funding to develop 30 new homes. Consequently, the Council supported the transfer of the land to the Co-op. It took another three years before the properties were built, and during that time, Co-op members worked with architects, Brock Carmichael to design the estate.
35 years later, the Co-op is still thriving, and is currently in the process of identifying suitable land in order to
develop a second phase of development.