Wales’ largest housing co-operative has launched, with Merthyr Tydfil handing control of 4,300 former council homes over to tenants and a new housing association’s 185 employees.
Merthyr Valleys Homes is only the second housing association in the UK, after Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, to be owned by both employees and tenants. Via a new membership body, they will be directly responsible for overseeing repairs, appointing directors, and setting rents and salaries.
The move comes after a year of discussions and debates between tenants, employees, community organisations and councillors. CEO Michael Owen said the move “reflects a changing consensus about the role of councils and central government in providing public services, particularly as budgets have fallen. New models have emerged to reflect this shift, with housing stock transfers and charities running leisure providing alternatives to rampant privatisation or outsourcing.”
Mr Owen also believes the embracing of mutualism in Wales is part of a growing determination to create a new Welsh way of doing business. He cites the Welsh government’s recent ‘Is the Feeling Mutual’ report as evidence that the latest thinking on business recognises the importance of employees.
“I believe this new model of tenants and employees being members will break down the tired, outdated model of public services being ‘delivered’ to consumers, and the barriers created by the separate roles of landlord/tenant employee/employer,” he said.
Merthyr Valleys Homes has been a Living Wage employer since 2011, and recently won the Buy Social Market Builder prize at the Social Enterprises UK Awards. Director of assets Paul Allen described the achievement as great recognition for “the hard work [that] has created some fantastic opportunities for local people to gain valuable work experience and employment in the area.”
The development of the new mutual will continue before going live on 1 May 2016.