Introduction to Co-operative Housing

People enjoying a shared garden in Iroko coop

Introduction to co-operative housing

All housing built on the Coin Street site to date is social housing. It is let to people in housing need at rents they can afford. Priority is given to groups including people in low-paid jobs or those living in other housing co-ops needing a transfer.

There are currently four housing co-ops on our site. Mulberry (built in 1988), Palm (1994), Redwood (1995) and Iroko (2001). Totalling 220 high quality, affordable homes.

Giving residents a voice and decision-making power

A co-op model gives residents a voice. Members make decisions about the day-to-day running of their homes. The one member, one vote system makes things fair and democratic. And it means the success of the development is down to the work the members put in. In return for taking on these responsibilities, the co-op has the power to allocate homes, set rents and create policies.

Living in a co-op can be hard work sometimes, but it always feels worth it because you’re doing it together. I can reach out to my neighbours and they reach out to me - and that feels good. The impact Coin Street has had on my life is immeasurable. They’ve put a roof over my head, and given me a job. You can’t put a price on being part of a community like this.

- Annette, resident and co-op member, and venue supervisor

How the co-ops are run

Our four housing developments are run by fully-mutual co-operatives. A housing co-operative is a group of people who jointly own the property they live in and decide how it is run. Co-op members do not individually own their homes, they are tenants and pay rent to the co-operative. Tenants are shareholders in the company that owns the building, and which is responsible for maintenance, collecting rents and selecting new tenants.

Every adult tenant must be a member of the co-operative and take an active part in running it. All decisions are made on the basis of one member, one vote. Each co-op elects its own officers to represent its members.

This model was chosen for a number of reasons. It is democratic; residents have a greater stake in their homes and tend to take more time and effort to ensure their properties and gardens are well maintained. Because the leasehold is owned jointly by all co-operative members, individual tenants do not have a right to buy their homes. This means that the housing will remain available at reasonable rents to those in need.

Each co-operative allocates at least 50% of its properties to the local council. Mulberry housing co-op is entirely filled by applicants via the local council. People applying for housing do not need to have any previous experience of co-operatives. But it is a condition of membership that every adult attends a training programme consisting of eleven 3 hour sessions. These sessions pass on essential information about the co-op and help develop communication and group work in an inclusive and enjoyable setting.