Casey Edwards @casey_walescoop from the Wales Co-Operative Centre @WalesCoOpCentre has blogged for us about how housing co-operatives are helping to build resilient communities. The North Wales leg of our #WAOADM event is next week.
No two housing co-operatives are the same; it’s not a one size fits all approach. Co-operative housing is about communities having democratic control over decision-making about their homes, neighbourhoods and communities. It is a flexible and innovative approach to ways in which we meet the housing needs and the aspirations of local neighbourhoods. Co-operatives can be developed in either new or existing housing and can cover a range of tenancies.
The Co-Operative Housing Project was established in 2011 and is managed by the Wales Co-Operative Centre, and supported by the Confederation of Co-Operative Housing. The project has helped to deliver over 130 homes across Wales and is supporting the delivery of many more by developing expertise in different co-operative models and providing advice to developers and co-operative groups.
I joined the Wales Co-Operative Centre in May 2017 as the project advisor and have realised it takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get these schemes ‘shovel ready’. All of the housing schemes have developed in contrasting ways and adopted different models, from the different ways in which schemes were instigated and funded; how individuals came to be involved; to the size, nature and tenure of the housing co-operative. So does all of this hard work actually pay off?
Being part of a housing co-op is about more than just having an affordable roof over your head. It is about being part of a support system, helping yourself but also taking the responsibility to help others in the wider community. Read about how Luana, at Loftus Village Association, is helping to bring the community together through organising events and social activities.
Examples like this also show how living in a housing co-op can also help to tackle isolation and loneliness, especially amongst the vulnerable and the elderly. Co-operative communities form close bonds and look after one another; that feeling of being part of a community which is hard to come by in the 21st century. Haydn from Old Oak Co-Operative shows how being involved in the co-op has helped him grow in confidence and take on responsibility within the community.
Living in a diverse, supportive community also gives people the chance to share knowledge and skills with each other, that maybe they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn living in more traditional environments. As part of the development of the co-op, tenants are involved in a rigorous training programme which includes topics such as co-operative principles, governance and housing management. They learn new transferrable skills which can help them improve their employment status or give them the confidence to change career. Our scheme Ty Cyfle is empowering young people to manage their housing independently, learning new skills along the way.
This self-help and self-responsibility approach to addressing housing need is having a much bigger impact than just providing affordable homes, it is creating self-sufficient, resilient and healthy communities, which can reduce the demand on wider support services.
Living in a community-led housing scheme can offer the kind of support that public services are increasingly finding it difficult to provide, often in a more personal and cost-efficient way. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act has now placed a duty on public bodies to think more about the long-term; to work better with people, communities and each other; to prevent problems and to take a more joined up approach. Co-operative housing is doing so already.
The seven wellbeing goals compliment the seven co-operative principles developed by the International Co-Operative Alliance, which all co-operatives should adhere to. They both emphasize the importance of developing attractive, viable, healthy and sustainable communities, that maintain, even enhance the natural environment. A democratic and fair society with an economy that generates wealth, without discrimination. A society that enables people to fulfil their potential no matter their background or circumstances. A society that provides employment opportunities and education and training for a skilled workforce. A co-operative society that highlights the importance of social and cultural wellbeing.
Co-operative and community-led housing can be a part of the solution to the housing crisis in the UK. But more than just a quick fix, it can be a part of a long term sustainable option to providing affordable homes and creating resilient communities.
The Wales Co-Operative centre offers support and advice to any new or existing organisation wishing to develop co-operative housing. We can provide access to experts’ advice about co-operative housing and we can provide skills and development training for members of a co-operative. We have recently developed a Co-operative Housing Pilot Toolkit, developed to help community groups, housing associations, co-ops, local authorities and others in the initial stages of considering how to develop new co-operative & community-led homes. Take a look.
More information on co-operative housing and what support is available can be obtained from the Wales Co-operative Centre on 0300 111 5050 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.