A housing co-op is a type of co-operative whose object is to provide accommodation for its members. Housing co-ops are an antidote to the common, but rather antisocial idea that housing is for investment and speculation rather than for fulfilling a basic human need. It’s not the bricks and mortar (or timber, straw-bales, cob etc.), it’s the organisation itself, i.e. a housing co-op can be set up before it has a property.
A housing co-op can involve people living together in one large property or in separate flats or houses. It’s the ownership structure that’s important (i.e. owned by the members) – the style of housing can be very different, depending on what the members want.
No-one makes any profit from a housing co-op – members are both tenants and landlords, and pay an affordable rent to the co-op, don’t gain or lose from any movement in the value of the property, and as long as it’s a co-op, the property (or properties) will no longer contribute to the profits of banks by being constantly bought and sold.
What to do
Join a housing co-op
Here are some directories / listings of housing co-ops:
- CDS Co-operatives: A-Z listing of co-ops, including housing co-ops
- Confederation of Co-operative Housing: usable by registered site members
- Co-operatives UK: put ‘housing’ into keywords and click apply
- Diggers and Dreamers: listing of UK intentional communities, many of which will be housing co-ops
- Radical Routes: listing of housing co-ops in their network
- plus do a web search for housing co-ops in your area
Some housing co-ops only accept referrals from the local authority, whilst others are open to anyone, and/or have open days / evenings and waiting lists.
Start a housing co-op
You’ll need to do some homework first. Here are our suggestions:
First read the ‘what can I do?’ section of this page.
Then this introduction to starting a housing co-op, from Radical Routes.
Then the documents on this page, from Somerset Co-operative Services.
And then you’re ready to read…
… this detailed guide to starting a housing co-op, from Radical Routes.
Then find yourself a gang you’d like to set up a co-op with, contact Catalyst Collective or Somerset Co-operative Services or another housing co-op support organisation of your choice, and tell them you’re ready to talk about model rules and registration.
Then, with the help of your chosen support organisation, develop your rules, register your co-op and open a building society account.
Issue loan stock to members with money, and put the loaned money into your building society account.
Find a property, work out how much more money you need to borrow, and, still with the help of your co-op support organisation, approach a mutual / ethical mortgage provider for the rest.