Community share offer aims to create vibrant student co-op housing market

'The more we raise, the more properties we can buy – and the more students will benefit from living in student housing co-ops'

National body Student Co-op Homes (SCH) is today (10 October) launching a community share offer that aims to grow a vibrant co-op housing market in the UK – and cultivate the next generation of co-operators.

Today’s students in higher education face increasing pressure, debt and mental health challenges, it says, arguing that student housing co-ops are a solution that can break the cycle of high-cost, poor-quality private rents that drive up debt and exacerbate poor health.

“Housing co-ops are affordable, not-for-profit homes that students manage and maintain themselves,” it said. “There are no landlords and everyone works together for mutual benefit. They provide the conditions to nurture new generations of resilient, healthy graduates who can enter the workforce and shape society from a stronger position.”

There are currently three student housing co-ops operating in the UK – in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield. Already, graduates from these co-ops have gone on to form co-operative enterprises and live and work in co-ops.

Other student housing co-ops have been set up in Glasgow, Nottingham and Brighton but are struggling to buy property in a competitive market. SCH is launching the community share offer to raise up to £2,000,000 from investors so it can buy properties to lease to these student housing co-ops at affordable rates. It is SCH’s ambition is to increase the number of beds offered in student housing co-ops from 120 to 10,000.

Fay Arnold, who lived in a student co-op house in Birmingham, said she had armed herself with valuable life skills, as well as a degree in computer systems engineering.

“The amount of DIY, admin and finance knowledge I’ve learned, it’s amazing,” she added. “I can reasonably do most simple DIY with no sweat now.

“It’s something I’m really happy about. And they’re skills I can use further down the line, and to teach to other people.”

Inside the Birmingham house – with Fay Arnold sat, far right

Vivian Woodell, director of Student Co-op Homes, said: “We are urging people and organisations to invest in our share offer so we can raise vital funds to break the cycle of poor-quality, high-cost student rents and vastly improve the lives of young people in higher education.

“The more we raise, the more properties we can buy – and the more students will benefit from living in student housing co-ops that give them valuable life skills, better physical and mental health, less debt and a better start to their working lives.”

Student Co-op Homes has been supported by Co-operatives UK, the national trade body for co-ops. Ed Mayo, secretary general, said: “It’s not just for the students’ benefit, the housing co-ops are helping to shape a group of graduates who are ready to enter the workforce with experience in community and co-operative values. They are the next generation of co-operators who can help to shape a fairer, more just economy to benefit us all.”

Community share offers are a popular approach to raising finance, in which people and organisations invest large or small sums of money and become co-owners of vital enterprises – from affordable housing to community pubs to green energy.

The SCH community share offer is now live at studenthomes.coop. Follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook @NoMoreLandlords.

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