Government need to consider mutual housing

A fringe meeting hosted by the Commission on Co-operative and Mutual Housing briefed delegates on its report on the co-operative and mutual housing sector across England.

Executive commissioner Dr Chris Handy of the Accord Housing Group was joined by fellow commissioners Nic Bliss from the Confederation of Co-operative Housing and David Rodgers of CDS Co-operatives.

Dr Handy began by reminding delegates that in terms of ‘pure’ housing co-operatives, the sector is still very small compared to other countries. 

He said that trying to grow the sector in times of austerity will be difficult, but “the journey starts here” he said, adding that with the increased political interest in co-operation “maybe we can find the oxygen to help the sector to grow”.

Mr Rodgers outlined the work of the Commission and the context in which it had worked: “We need to be building 246,000 new homes a year — we’ll be less than 100,000 this year.”

He said that of the 16 commissioners, 12 had no previous co-op links. The commission had held public hearings and was now in implementation mode. “This report won’t be just written and forgotten,” he pledged.

Mr Rodgers said government cannot meet housing need on its own, particularly in the current cutting climate, so “we need new innovative ways of doing it. We have a unique offer to make — it remains to be seen whether the government will listen”.

Nic Bliss explained that the Commission had been established at Congress two years ago and that its report was launched last November by the then housing minister John Healey.

One of the key findings from the report states “co-operative and mutual housing has the potential to respond to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people in an uncertain housing environment”.

The report highlights the above average levels of satisfaction enjoyed by people in housing co-operatives, together with wider individual and community benefits and points to sympathetic national and local governments, support frameworks and grassroots community development as reasons for the growth of co-operative housing in other countries.

Mr Bliss said the Commission’s recommendations had implications for national and local government, the overall housing sector, the co-operative housing sector and the wider Co-operative Movement.

He said progress was already being made in a number of areas and suggested that if significant change and progress is to be made, the sector of the future “will not look much like existing co-operative and mutual housing”.

He ended with an aim that “by 2030 each town, village and community should be able to offer co-operative and mutual housing options”.

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