Housing co-operatives met in Manchester on 11-13 July for the annual meeting of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH), and discussed the role housing co-ops could play in providing affordable housing across the UK.
Nic Bliss, chair of CCH said delegates were inspired by some of the housing projects that are going on in Wales and England.
“There was quite a lot of enthusiasm among people to explore options”, he said, adding that more and more people were sorting out their own housing solutions. A main challenge, however, was mobilising people in the right place at the right time, he said.
At the same time, housing co-operatives have multiple opportunities because of the lack of other housing options for people in the UK.
“Different co-ops will be facing diff challenges in relation to welfare reform,” added Nic. However, housing co-operative tend to know their tenants better than other associations, he said, which enables them to engage more with those tenants facing difficulties due to the welfare reform and find solutions together.
CCH delegates heard from a number of speakers, including Chames Zaimeche from Students for Co-operation, who explained how the project started. Faced with increased rent prices that did not reflect the poor quality of the houses, a group of students from Birmingham University decided to turn to the co-operative model for solutions.
“A few of us got together early on last year and agreed that something had to be done”, said Mr Zaimeche, a second year student at the University of Birmingham.
One of their flagship projects has been setting up the UK’s first student housing co-operative, the Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative, which recently celebrated its official launch with the opening of their first property. The house, bought by the Phone Co-op, provides affordable housing for students, who will also be the ones managing it democratically. The Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative is a founding member of Students for Co-operation.
“There is definitely room for this to be expanded”, said Mr Zaimeche, adding that work had already started on setting up housing co-operatives in Sheffield, London and Edinburgh. However, creating more student housing co-operatives requires funding to acquire the properties, as well as to provide support to student groups looking at setting up co-operatives. This is where other co-operatives could help, thinks Chames Zaimeche, by providing funding to develop new student housing initiatives.
Linda Wallace, the recently appointed chief executive of CDS Co-operatives, a co-op managed by the clients they serve, explained what type of services they offered to tenants, leaseholders and housing co-operatives.
“Public awareness of housing co-ops is limited,” she said, but added that although some people might be looking at co-operative housing because they are interested in a house rather than joining a co-operative, they could still get to learn about co-operative values and principles once they join the co-operative.
- For more stories from the Confederation of Co-operative Housing 2014 conference, click here
In this article
- Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative
- Birmingham University
- Chames Zaimeche
- Confederation of Housing Co-operatives
- Housing cooperative
- Linda Wallace
- Nic Bliss
- Social programs
- Students for co-operation
- The Phone Co-op
- University of Birmingham
- United Kingdom