21 May 2013

Can Co-op Housing help solve local housing crisis?

The title of this blog is the title of a workshop at The SPACE, Lansdown Hall on Thursday 30th May 7.30-9.30pm to "explore how co-op housing can offer affordable, convivial housing to both those on their 20’s and 30’s, as well as older people looking for mutual coop housing solutions". This is what their press release says:

 Private rentals are up, social housing is scarce and first time homes are expensive so….

The workshop will explore practical rental and mutual co-op housing options, as well as reviewing the causes of high rents, high housing prices, the support available to housing co-ops and practical next steps, as some participants may want to organize their own housing co-ops as a result. There will be short films, a variety of speakers and people engaged in developing housing co-ops..as well as the opportunity to sign up a visit to Redditch Co-operative Homes.

The workshop is organized by Stroud Common Wealth. Says Martin Large, ‘We either hang separately or together! We have the co-op housing and co-op financing tools to develop affordable, convivial housing. The purpose is to outline a range of co-operative housing and community finance options that can help people get going.'

Why now? Housing needs are rising, council house sales are continuing under RTB, and the supply of affordable homes is at a historic low point. So, this workshop will explore how this challenge can be tackled constructively, so we can provide more housing with relatively less resources, and develop a housing framework that works for everyone?

Co-op housing solutions both embed practical, time tested co-op guiding values, governance, in self managing tenures, the capture of land value permanently for community benefit, and can help reverse the structural housing market failure caused by treating land as a commodity to be bought and sold for the highest price rather than as a socially stewarded commons.

The local housing challenge

The social rented stock in the district is limited to 14% of the total stock (10% is Council and 4% housing association). Not surprisingly, it is estimated that there were 2,600 households in Stroud District living in unsuitable housing (2010). Most recently (December 2012) there were 3,000 households on the Housing Register of who over 1,000 are in what the Council regards as priority categories. In the priority groups, 700 need a one-bed property, 315 a two-bed property and 176 a three bed or larger property. There are housing needs for older people, those with disabilities and particularly for younger people, such as short-term emergency housing. More housing need will arise in the future, particularly amongst single people under 35 and working age families, as result of benefit restrictions, which limit access to the private rented sector.

Yet the number of social housing units built has been falling – from 102 units in 2009/10, to 84 units in 2010/11 to 48 units in 2011/12.  SDC’s welcome policy of building new council houses is welcome, yet more social homes are still being sold under the right to buy..this would not happen with co-op housing.

Co-operative housing has a role to play in helping to meet this need. The Council has identified sites with potential for the building of 163 properties on garage sites which could be made available for co-op housing  development. It also has, or may acquire, other surplus and vacant land with development potential.  The Council Executive has further agreed that it should list sites for alternative use such as Self Build or for disposal to local Community Land Trusts to generate activity at a local level. This needs to be implemented and this opportunity seized as a contribution to meeting housing need, engage local communities and ‘locking in’ new affordable housing in perpetuity.

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