Housing co-op opens in historic Sheffield city centre building

Residents will be in charge of every aspect of the building under the initiative, led by secondary co-op Roost

A newly opened housing co-op, in the historic Marples building in Sheffield city centre, will offer long-term affordable homes for 48 people.

The Marples Co-op is an initiative of Roost, a secondary housing co-operative that offers infrastructure for setting up new co-ops. Roost describes itself as a tech-for-good startup, pointing to its use of an online platform to enable groups of people to choose a budget and preferred location. The co-op then deals with all the legal aspects and paperwork on behalf of the residents.

While rental costs in Sheffield have been increasing by 12% every year, the co-op has secured rent controls, with housing costs linked to inflation (capped at 3%) for the duration of the lease. Tenant members will also enjoy up to 20 years of housing security, legally protected against no-fault evictions. 

Marples Co-op building

Dating back to the late 1800s, the Marples building has served as a wine vault, pub and concert venue. The building takes its name after former owner John Marples who acquired it in 1886. In 1940 it was destroyed in the Sheffield Blitz, with the loss of 70 lives, and was rebuilt after World War II, and used as a hotel.

Before the co-op took over, it provided student accommodation and had a pawn shop on the ground floor. The co-op is currently refurbishing the building to make it more suitable for community-led housing. Employees of Roost have also moved into Marples to live and work, with members and staff collaborating on refurbishment.

Residents will be in charge of every aspect of the building, from the large communal areas on every floor, to their bedrooms. They will be able to paint and decorate their rooms how they like. 

Members include some of the students and professionals already living in the building, alongside new tenants moving in each week and joining the co-op. Two of Roost’s three employees have also moved in and become members.

Members renovating the building

“We’re incredibly proud to be taking part in this project and are enjoying living in Sheffield ourselves,” said Roost founder Ben Dunn Flores. “The housing innovation from Sheffield universities excites us, and we feel confident that Sheffield is the perfect home for a new model of community led homes.

“We hope this will set the tone for the housing industry and show that there are innovative solutions that can be tapped into to help solve the housing crisis. The landmark project will see Marples members, community groups and the co-op residents collaborate to make the space a blueprint for cooperatively-run housing in the UK.”

Some of the co-op’s founders include homelessness experts and accessibility designers.

Marples is seeking five additional members to join. Anyone interested in joining the Marples Co-op can fill in the sign up form here: https://tally.so/r/3X4Q9j.

Roost has ambitious plans for the future: it has already launched a second and third co-op in London, with plans to launch one a month this year.

“We are currently fundraising, once this is achieved we can scale up at a much faster rate and help our waiting list of 10,000 members,” said marketing manager Tess O’Shea.