The Welsh co-operative housing sector continues to grow with the first leasehold housing co-operative opening in Cardiff in December 2015. The co-op is a pilot scheme developed with support from the Welsh government, who provided capital funding to Cadwyn Housing Association for the development of Home Farm Village Co-operative. The development comprises of 41 flats and houses provided at social rents. All tenants are members of the co-operative and can stand for the board.
A report by the Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH) features case studies of 1,001 co-operative and community-led homes. The study is a directory of recent co-operative and community-led housing schemes in England and Wales.
Four housing mutuals have been included in a list of the UK’s top ten social landlords. Organised by 24housing magazine, an expert panel has catalogued the top 50 social landlords, with places one to 10 to be decided by an online public vote.
A group of young people working in the not-for-profit sector in Oxford have set up a housing co-op with external investors to acquire their first home. Tired of renting from private landlords, the five friends decided to develop an alternative housing model that would enable them to afford a house. Together they registered the Kindling Housing Co-operative, the city’s first housing co-op in 15 years.
September: Nationwide backs housing co-ops in Wales
The Nationwide Foundation is providing £130,000 to the Wales Co-operative Centre to create more housing co-operatives. The funding will support 40 co-operative groups in Wales over the next three years. The Wales Co-operative Centre received an initial grant from the Nationwide Foundation and the Welsh government in 2014. This was used to complete three new co-operative housing schemes, with four other co-operative housing schemes nearing completion and six further schemes at various stages of development. The centre will use the new funding to bring legal, financial and business organisation experts to local co-operative housing projects.
A national body of student housing co-operatives is needed to help build the movement, say campaigners. The UK has three student housing co-ops – in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield – with over 120 students self-managing their accommodation in a bid to create a cost-effective solution to high rents and poor management. Students for Cooperation, which represents student co-ops in the UK, says this is an achievement but there is still “a real need to expand the network and begin acquiring properties”.
Secretary of state for Work and Pensions, Damian Green, announced the government would be deferring the imposition of the Local Housing Allowance Cap to people living in hostels and supported housing. The deferral will extend to fully mutual and co-operative housing and community land trusts. The Local Housing Allowance is used to calculate housing benefit for tenants who rent privately, with a limit to the total amount of benefit that those aged 16-64 can get. Over the last couple of months, the Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH) has been involved in a government consultation on the future of funding arrangements for the sector.
Q&A: Nic Bliss, Conferation of Co-operative Housing
What were your highlights and lowlights of 2016?
Many highlights – first and foremost the development of many co-operative housing schemes resulting in many new housing co-operators in England and Wales (highlighted in our “1,001 Co-operative Homes” publication; successful avoidance of most of the more challenging aspects of the Housing and Planning Bill as a result of work done by the CCH, the Co-op Party and others; the ongoing growth of the CCH with many more new members joining and us supporting those members; the development of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network’s Community led Housing Commission (special mention to Croydon Council for making that happen); support for co-operative housing popping up everywhere – the West Midlands Combined Authority, Greater London Authority, maybe in Northern Ireland, and most definitely in the Welsh Government – it’s been wonderful working with the Wales Co-operative Centre and all the Welsh co-operators. Yeah – there’s a lot going on!!!
Lowlights – challenges caused by welfare reform; lack of revenue funding for developing co-op housing in England; but the permanent lowlight in the UK is the completely dysfunctional housing market that benefits part of the population whilst leaving a growing proportion with no realistic options.
What are you most looking forward to / worrying about for your sector / for the co-operative movement next year?
Looking forward to – more new co-operative housing organisations; publication of our work on mutuality in housing associations; publication/update of our guide on developing new co-operative housing; partnership work between the CCH and the Co-op Party on co-operative solutions for solving the UK’s dysfunctional housing market; publication of the CCIN’s Commission report; the publication of the new CCH/Wales Co-op Centre/Welsh Government co-operative housing strategy and the forthcoming co-operative housing it will lead to.
Worries – will we run out of hours in the day to keep up with the growing demand for co-operative housing solutions? Will the English framework for community led housing will ever match the amazing work done by our friends in Wales? Will the housing numbers game and the same old tried and tested failed solutions of the past obliterate people and communities coming up with their own housing solutions? Will we be able to stem the numbers of people left behind by the dysfunctional housing market?