Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

Cooperative Housing

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?

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October 3, 2011

10 Things About Squatting

Squatting is a common housing alternative, with an estimated 15000 to 17000 squatters in the UK and a billion squatters worldwide.

Squatting is legal in England and Wales and squatters have certain rights.

The government is looking to make it a criminal offence. You can, until October 5th, respond to the consultation here.

Squatters don’t steal your home. That’s a criminal offence. They tend to occupy uninhabited places, empty, unused, abandoned buildings.

Squatters often improve the properties they occupy. See Squat Or Rot for examples.

Tens of thousands of otherwise homeless people in the UK are self-homed by squatting.

Different people squat for different reasons. For some it’s a necessity, or an opportunity. Most are victims of housing policy and the housing crisis, others victims of natural disaster or war. And for others it’s a political act, people often bring empty buildings back into use as social centres or community spaces.

Every continent has squatters. See Squattercity for a good few examples.

Ex-servicemen and women started a squatting movement and campaign in post war England, occupying hotels and empty blocks.

Squatters were at the forefront of the 1970s movement for more co-operative housing, many groups of squatters formed permanent co-ops.

Squatting is the oldest mode of tenure in the world, and we are all descended from squatters. This is as true of the Queen with her 176,000 acres as it is of the 54 percent of householders in Britain who are owner-occupiers. They are all the ultimate recipients of stolen land, for to regard our planet as a commodity offends every conceivable principle of natural rights.” – Colin Ward

Crisis is campaigning against the proposals to criminalise squatting

Does mainstream media demonise squatters?

Short videos – Squatters In Europe

Amsterdam Squat

Squatting In London