CO-OPERATIVE housing in the UK has been given a welcome boost after council tenants voted in favour of taking more control over their homes.
Over 80 per cent of tenants voted for 7,000 properties, currently managed by Preston Council to be transferred to the Community Gateway Association (CGA) ? an independent housing association model developed by Co-operatives UK and the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing.
The four-week postal ballot, organised by Electoral Reform Services, showed 81.39 per cent of tenants were in favour of transferring the properties, while 18.61 per cent were against.
The CGA is designed to involve tenants at every stage of policy and decision making and is due to take over the council's estate in autumn this year.
Run by a board including seven members elected by tenants, the CGA has plans to spend £ 80 million on repairs and modernisation over the first five years as well as improving the repairs service and developing new ways of involving tenants in local neighbourhoods and across the city.
Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, told the News: "It's fantastic that tenants in Preston have become the first in the country to vote for a Community Gateway Association, which will give them a direct say in how their homes and communities are managed and run.
"That's what co-operation is all about. As members, tenants will be in the driving seat and will have real involvement at every stage of decision-making.
"The Preston experience is sure to become a beacon not only for other council tenants faced with stock transfer, but for all those tenants and leaseholders who want to make a real difference to the way their homes and neighbourhoods are run."
Nic Bliss, from Birmingham Co-operative Housing Services who has played a leading role in developing tenant empowerment in Preston, said:"The Community Gateway principles united tenants, councillors and officers behind transfer.
"It has been an honour working with tenants and communities in the city. What they have created will move the goalposts significantly towards housing associations becoming what they should be ? the facilitators and servants of communities rather than their masters."
Rose Kinsella, acting chair of the shadow board of the Community Gateway Association, said: "The result is fantastic news for tenants but, in many ways, the hard work starts now. By working together, tenants can make a real difference to our homes and our communities.
"We would be happy to share our experiences with tenants from other local authorities considering whether the Community Gateway model could work for them."
The Community Gateway Association will be among the first to benefit from the £ 180 million gap funding pot announced by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in July.
The ODPM has offered a commitment to gap funding which, based on the current estimates of the deficit between the costs and modernising Preston's stock and the rental income over 30 years, could be up to £ 31.2 million.
Pictured…Nic Bliss with Gateway tenant and board member Christine Winstanley.