Co-op housing is still a very small part of the housing sector here in the UK, apparently 0.6% of housing stock. It’s a different story in the rest of Europe though where there are more than 10 million co-op homes.
So, what is a housing co-op?
The Confederation of Co-operative Housing say ‘they are the country’s best kept secret’.
Basically, a group of people can become a co-op (on paper, so to speak) then find and buy a property to make their home. They buy a place and live in it together sharing the costs and responsibilities. BUT the mortgage on a co-op is more like a corporate loan than an individual’s mortgage. The co-op is a legal entity much like a business or charity which means the mortgage is taken out in the co-op’s name not in the names of the individuals.
My experience has been with FULLY MUTUAL housing co-ops. Fully mutual co-ops own, manage and control their property(s), all tenants are members of the co-op and are (have a right to be, at least) involved in the co-op. These types of independent housing co-ops are owned and run by the tenants, those who live there are collectively responsible for financial decisions and membership.
Being an independent co-op means as members/tenants YOU have control over your home. No landlord, no mortgage, no unexpected unreasonable rent rises. You, collectively, can decide on the rent, even how much it is and where it is spent. Obviously mortgage/loan repayments have to be covered so the rent is calculated to cover everyone’s share of expenses, to keep the co-op ticking over. You elect a committee of management – at least a Chair, a Treasurer, and a Secretary, and sometimes hire contractors or outside agencies for accounting, admin or maintenance work.
More on this over the next weeks. I’ll be asking can housing co-ops be (a part of) the solution to affordable housing and the housing crisis? How could families, particularly low-income families, do co-op housing?
Different types of housing co-op – cch.coop/coopinfo
England.shelter.org.uk – housing co-operatives
Scotland.shelter.org.uk – housing co-operatives
Coincidently, today sees the launch of the International Year of Cooperatives – will housing be highlighted or will it all be about business?