'We had to fight the NF': but can London's first black housing co-op survive latest threat?

In the mid-90s, residents of Nubia Way defied racist attacks to become Europe’s largest black-led self-build scheme – but austerity has brought new danger

It is more than two decades since Tim Oshodi stood between a row of partly built houses in Downham, south-east London, and a gang of men who intended to burn them to the ground. Oshodi, now 53, has a calm and meditative presence. But alone, he was shaken. “I was absolutely terrified, he says. “But I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t let them burn the houses.”

That evening, in June 1996, Oshodi was packing up his tools. He had just finished fitting a skylight in his home-to-be in Nubia Way: a row of 13 timber frame chalets being gradually assembled by members of the city’s first black self-build housing co-operative.

Everybody here got a new qualification or a new job. It boosts your confidence when you can do something like this

To think of losing all this and living god knows where – I couldn't. I’d rather be bloody dead

The principle of black people giving something, giving your labour, creating that social housing that’s there for ever, and them just saying ‘eff-off’

Related: The story of Lewisham’s radical self-builders

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