More housing co-ops are needed in Scotland, according to a report launched at Holyrood this week.
The study, published on 26 February, says housing co-ops help to build stronger and safer communities, offer affordable rents and empower tenants – and calls on the Scottish government to encourage more of them. With 150,000 people on council house waiting lists, Scotland has just 11 registered housing co-ops, compared to 685 across the UK.
The report, launched by Co-operatives UK for Scotland’s Cross Party Group (CPG) on Co-ops, features case studies including West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op, Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op and Ploughshare Housing Co-op.
The authors recommend an eight-point plan to deliver more housing co-ops in Scotland. This includes a three-year pilot programme to aid the development of housing co-ops in the social and private rental sectors, consultation of Scotland’s social tenants and work to lower the costs and increase the scale of community-led housing.
The report suggests working with the sector to create a Co-operative Foundation to finance larger community-led projects.
And it says existing housing co-ops also need government support, particularly in terms of safety improvements needed after the Grenfell fire.
Another recommendation is to grant “carefully targeted” relief from Land and Buildings Transaction Tax on additional property purchases made by fully mutual housing co-ops in order to help non-registered housing co-ops expand.
Nathan Bower-Bir, member of Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op, said: “Most student housing is either run down or outrageously expensive – or both. Student housing is now a lucrative ‘investment opportunity’ – but students deserve homes over which they have control and that are integrated into wider society.”
Paul Farrell, chief executive of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op, added: “All the statistics show the day-to-day lives of tenants have improved under the co-op. Before we took over, there was no demand for homes and a high turnover of tenants. Within five years, we turned that around to increase demand and reduce turnover. That is still the case 25 years later.”
Anne Anderson, who has lived at West Whitlawburn for 40 year, chairs the WWHC management committee. She said: “As a co-op, it is definitely better – it’s a much better environment, a better place to live. It’s much more of a community now.”
Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, added: “More people in Scotland deserve the choice to live in successful, affordable, collaborative communities. Scotland is ready for a more co-operative economy and we think that should start in the home.”
Referring to the launch of the report James Kelly MSP, convener of the CPG on Co-ops, said: “We hope colleagues across the Scottish Parliament and beyond with an interest in co-operation, housing and social justice will read this report and support our recommendations for more co-operative housing in Scotland.”