Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

Posts Tagged ‘housing

Reflecting on the last 12 months – part 1

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With the new financial year barely a week old, Derek Walker, our Chief Executive, has taken the opportunity to look back on the last twelve months at the Wales Co-operative Centre….

Derek Walker

Derek Walker

I was recently looking through the posts on our blog site from the last twelve months. I was struck by the realisation that we have covered an awful lot of ground as an organisation. In addition, the scale of our output is matched by the quality and impact of our work.

It’s a healthy thing to look back at what has gone before, as you can learn from experience and take confidence from what has gone well. Another thing that occurred to me was the rich diversity of our work.

Since the start of the last financial year, some new clients have emerged. To highlight just a few – AFS in Swansea, where former Remploy staff came together to form a worker co-operative that has already proven successful. The Cambrian Village Trust social enterprise, in Clydach Vale, was supported to open a new, world class, all-weather football pitch. PS Services, a social business run by mental health charity Gofal, won the ‘One to Watch’ category at the UK Social Enterprise Awards. Many other businesses that we’ve supported have gone from strength to strength, showing that co-operatives and social enterprises are models for growth, as well as sustainability.

Elsewhere in the Centre, we’ve received additional funding from Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund to expand the area covered by Communities 2.0, to now help people in the most deprived parts of Cardiff, Newport, Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire make the most of computers and the Internet. Communities 2.0 has also seen a number of county-wide initiatives launch in the last year, heavily based on strong partnership work – bringing the people and organisations together than can make a real difference.

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

Our co-operative housing project has been extended for another two years. More groups around Wales are talking to us, and our partners, about the potential to develop co-operative housing schemes in their community, giving people more direct control over their living arrangements.

The year’s watershed moment came with the publication of the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission report. Led by Professor Andrew Davies, the Commission has concluded that “conventional approaches to economic growth and development are not sufficient alone to achieve the improvement in the social and economic wellbeing of people in Wales”, adding “co-operatives and mutuals offer significant economic, social and environmental benefits compared with ordinary businesses. Their development must be central to transforming Wales’ economic fortunes”. These words come as a clarion call to those involved in the co-operatives and mutuals sector, as well as those on the fringes who have yet to realise the full potential of co-operative approaches to economic development. The report’s recommendations are currently being discussed at a series of consultation events and it will be interesting to hear how others think they should be taken forward. The report’s recommendations have the Centre’s full support.

Join us for the second part of this blog post, later in the week…

A ‘Commons Sense’ approach to housing

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A ‘Commons Sense’ approach to housing

The Wales Co-operative Centre champions co-operative working as a way of helping people to do things for themselves. For just over a year the Centre has been working successfully to support the development of a number of new co-operative housing schemes across Wales.

Two years ago, a conference was held in Letchworth – the first Garden City – about the potential to develop urban community land trusts and new ‘Garden Cities’ across the UK.

A ‘Garden City’ is, “…a town designed for healthy living and industry of a size that makes possible a full measure of social life but not larger, surrounded by a rural belt; the whole of the land being in public ownership, or held in trust for the community.”

Rhiwbina in Cardiff was developed as a garden village a century ago.

New garden cities are needed to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, create sustainable communities and help young people get on the housing ladder. With 1.7m people in the UK waiting for social housing and half a million overcrowded households, radical housing solutions are required. Support for a new generation of garden cities is growing with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition all making supportive statements in the last two years.

Co-operatives UK has just published, ‘Commons Sense – Co-operative place making and the capturing of land value for 21st century Garden Cities’, a report from the Letchworth conference that compellingly captures the speeches and workshops. There are fascinating contributions on The Garden City Movement. From Wales, there is a section on Co-operatives and Mutual Home Ownership from David A Rodgers, recent Housing President of the International Co-operatives Alliance, and on Co-operative Housing from Rhidian Jones, Head of Affordable Housing, Department for Housing and Regeneration, The Welsh Government. There is also a section on the challenges to developing Community Land Trusts for urban land stewardship by Catherine Harrington, National Co-ordinator, of the National Community Land Trust Network.

The report highlights the inequalities in land ownership in the UK –


‘Few people are aware of the intensive concentration of landownership in Britain with 36,000 people (0.06% of the population) owning about half the land’….and 0.6% of the UK housing stock being in Co-operative ownership!

It goes on to make 10 recommendations which will help in shaping the innovative co-operative economic policy frameworks for Wales, and to continue to advance the work that the Wales Co-operative Centre is delivering across the country.

There are 2 recommendations with particular relevance to Wales:-


Multi-stakeholder co-operatives for the Common Good:

Forging a coalition to unleash the untapped potential to join up Community-led housing solutions including Community Land Trusts, co-operative housing of all tenures (rental and shared equity), Community Self-build and Co-housing. The Welsh Government has acted upon this and the Wales Co-operative Centre is a key partner. This network of multi-stakeholder co-operatives has been developed to link the community land solutions for housing that require access to sites.

Social-Public Partnerships:

Dynamic social-public partnerships are vital. The enabling strategy currently being developed for mutual housing in Wales and supported by government and the Wales Co-operative Centre should become commonplace across the UK.

Since the inception of the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Co-operative Housing project in 2012, the Centre has worked hard with Welsh Government and other stakeholders, to promote the co-operative model as one way of addressing the need for affordable homes.

Some key achievements of the project include: –

  • Co-operative housing specialists from across the UK have been procured under a framework agreement with the Centre. This specialist knowledge has brought new skills in to Wales with specialist providers helping eight potential co-operative housing schemes.
  • Commissioned research in to the demand for co-operative housing within Wales with a particular emphasis on Cardiff, Newport and Carmarthen. The report also looked at the perception of co-operative housing, barriers to setting them up and the factors that would attract people to want to join a co-operative housing scheme. A set of practical recommendations for those involved in developing and marketing co-operative housing schemes in Wales were also developed as part of this research.
  • Over a hundred individual beneficiaries been given information and advice around co-operative housing.
  • Support provided to sixteen pioneer projects.
  • Support provided to 2 advanced pioneer projects to allow them to become ‘shovel’ ready before the end of March 2014.- Support will be required beyond this date.
  • Welsh Government offered £1.9M in Social Housing Grant’s to 3 advanced pioneer schemes and three Registered Social Landlord’s ready to take up this allocation and build 89 co-operative homes.
  • In addition to the above, over several hundred potential co-operative homes identified in ‘the pipeline’, together with numerous emerging pioneer projects.

It has been an exciting time for co-operative housing within Wales over the last two years. We have three advanced pioneer projects which will soon start work with Registered Social Landlord partners to build co-operatively owned homes in Wales. As a result of the support of the Centre’s project there are groups of people across Wales looking at innovative ways of using co-operative models to provide access to affordable housing.

If all of these schemes progress as envisaged then Wales will be seen as an emerging leader in innovative co-operative housing solutions.

This excellent report builds on the conference and re-enforces the support given to the 8-12 pioneering co-operative housing projects by the Wales Co-operative Centre, and will assist them all moving forward on the ground this year.

Dave Palmer is Co-operative Housing Project Manager at the Wales Co-operative Centre

Assured tenancies for co-operative housing associations is good news!

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Assured tenancies for co-operative housing associations is good news!

Dave Palmer, Co-operative Housing Project Manager for the Wales Co-operative Centre welcomes the introduction of the new Housing Bill.

A new Housing (Wales) Bill was launched by Housing Minister Carl Sargeant on Monday (18th November) and it includes measures that will greatly support the development of co-operative housing in Wales.

The Bill takes forward proposals set out in the White Paper “Homes for Wales” in 2012. It sets out a series of legislative proposals that will make a difference to people and communities in Wales by:
* Helping people access a decent, affordable home and ensuring those at risk of becoming homeless receive the help they need.
* Raising standards in the private rented sector and placing a greater emphasis on action to prevent people from becoming homeless.
* Assisting the expansion of co-operative housing as another way of increasing the supply of affordable homes.

This is important, because in terms of co-operative housing, the Bill will assist the expansion of this co-operative approach by improving arrangements for people who wish to join or leave a co-operative.

Proposed measures to boost co-operative housing by allowing fully mutual housing co-operatives to grant both assured and assured short-hold tenancies are to be welcomed. They will create more security for tenants and help co-operatives obtain finance from lenders.

Keith Edwards, Director at the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru agrees.

“Wales is creating a distinct approach to meet national housing needs, with considerable cross-party consensus and multi-sector support, under the ‘system stewardship’ of Welsh Government. The Bill contains diverse, Welsh-crafted solutions, to improve consumer protection, raise standards across all sectors and protect our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens by prioritising the reduction of homelessness”.

The new Bill encourages the development of innovative approaches to housing supply and in particular to the development of co-operative housing in Wales. We in the Wales Co-operative Centre welcome the Bill and the positive impact it will make to tenants in Wales. Assured tenancies for fully mutual (co-operative) housing associations are good news for future co-operative tenants!

For further information about the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Co-operative Housing Project visit Wales Co-operative Centre’s website or call 0300 111 5050

Research shows that 1 in 5 tenants have turned to doorstep lenders in the last year – #povertyinwales

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As universal welfare reforms roll out across Britain, Wales Co-operative Centre Financial Inclusion Project Manager Jocelle Lovell discusses the changes.

A recent survey has highlighted that in Wales nearly two fifths of private and portfolio landlords were not prepared for upcoming changes in Welfare benefits and the subsequent effect it may have on their rental income.

Startlingly, a separate pilot conducted by the Wales Co-operative Centre and Caerphilly County Borough Council suggests that private sector tenants are just as poorly informed and prepared as their landlords.

Welfare reform will affect the way that all claimants, including those currently receiving housing benefits, receive their payments. Each household will receive the benefits they are entitled to in one single payment that will be monthly in arrears

Many tenants of both private and social landlords will still say that they don’t pay rent as they have never been in receipt of the money and have never had to make a physical payment. There are also many tenants who are digitally excluded, and have no means of accessing the online services that will help them manage better or do not have the skills to do so.

Budgeting is an issue for tenants who are currently used to receiving payments on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Many tenants existing within a cash economy may soon find themselves in difficulty.

People who are already in or living close to the poverty line often don’t want the temptation of having the rent money in their pocket.  Most people faced with the choice of paying rent or feeding or clothing their children will ensure their children’s immediate needs are met first.

The Welfare Reform and Universal Credit changes will be rolled out over the next few years. It is our belief that if more resources are put into pro active methods of engagement with ‘at risk’ tenants now it would be far more effective and offer better value for money to the public purse that dealing with crisis intervention at a later date. Woman in front of house

Following a piece of work carried out in partnership with Caerphilly County Borough Council, early findings suggest that four out of five tenants are still unaware of exactly how the reforms will affect them. At least half of the tenants surveyed to date had no access to on-line facilities.

Working in partnership with staff from the local authority we were able to explain the effects of the reforms to each tenant.  Wherever possible, tenants were advised on applying for additional funding and referrals were made to other advice and support agencies in the area, including foodbanks. Of the tenants visited over half had struggled to pay bills such as rent and utilities and one in five had turned to door step lenders in the past year. Each of the tenants faced different challenges – paying bills, paying rent, buying food, or buying clothing for their children, but most were already struggling with their finances.

We need a range of solutions to meet the needs of different people.  Nobody should be forced into using a product or service that isn’t appropriate for them.

One of these solutions could be a Credit Union Rent Account as it offers peace of mind to the tenant that their rent will be paid and also removes the temptation to use the rent money to make up short falls elsewhere. Of the tenants visited 80% wanted to explore the idea of a Credit Union Rent Account as they felt it was the best way to protect their tenancy.

The Wales Co-operative Centre’s Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion project is working with local authorities and landlords across Wales to promote this simple model.

In light of the changes to Welfare Reform and the cuts to public sector funding, there has never been a more important time for public, private and the third sectors to work more collaboratively in supporting people and tackling poverty.

Written by Mark Smith

October 30, 2013 at 8:30 am

Centre supporting private sector landlords and tenants to consider financial inclusion

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Earlier this week, the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion (THFI) project team joined housing professionals and landlord representatives at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) PRS Summit.

Delegates gathered at the Future Inn, in Cardiff Bay, to consider the role of the private rented sector (PRS) in Wales, at a time when it is experiencing a period of substantial change.

Following an introduction by Welsh Government on the ‘Homes for Wales’ White Paper, that will underpin the first Housing Bill to be published later this year, the PRS is well and truly on the top of the agenda for local authorities, housing associations, private landlords and increasingly institutional investors.

woman in front of house

The conference focused on the financial challenges facing tenants in the Private Rented Sector

The THFI project fits into this by identifying that financially excluded tenants, living in PRS, are at a greater risk of becoming homeless.  In the context of forthcoming welfare reform and the move to Universal Credit, THFI is engaging with landlords and their tenants to promote the use of financial inclusion to mitigate the impact of these reforms.

In practice, THFI has been successfully promoting the role of credit unions through the payment of Local Housing Allowance, directly into a credit union rent account, on behalf of vulnerable tenants.  This leads to a longer, sustainable, tenancy, which is in the best interests of the tenant and the landlord.

THFI Project Manager, Jo Lovell, and Financial Inclusion Officer, Lucia Gillespie delivered a workshop, to a full house, as part of the PRS Summit, asking people to consider the best way to support tenants in the PRS.  A lively discussion identified that:

a)      The needs of PRS tenants are not fully met throughout Wales.

b)      A person-centred approach is needed and an understanding of the tenant’s history.

c)      Mapping of support and advice services will help landlords and tenants alike, to understand where they can turn to.

d)      Communication between landlords, tenants and local authorities is vital.

A person-centred approach has been the key to the success of a pilot project with Caerphilly Council, Smartmoney Credit Union and PRS landlords.  Here, the scheme has been used to provide financial services to the ‘unbanked’ and to ring-fence Housing Benefit to protect PRS tenants.

Working in partnership with the council tenants, visits have been carried out, leading to the collection of data, to help gain an improved understanding of tenants circumstances in order to signpost them to vital support.  Following 21 tenant visits, more than a third have signed up for a rent account or gone on to open main stream bank accounts.  The Council is so pleased with these results, that there are plans to roll out this work to many more tenants in the coming months.

Jo Lovell, THFI project manager said: “It is a myth that all tenants on benefits are bad tenants.  By working, proactively, and supporting the use of the rent account can help to both safeguard your rent and maintain a long and successful tenancy.”

Congress to open doors to co-operative housing success

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Co-operative Congress 2013 opens in Cardiff next week. One of the main themes that will be debated at the event is co-operative housing. The Wales Co-operative Centre is hosting a seminar on this topical issue, on Saturday 29th June. To give you a flavour of what to expect, we’ve spoken to Dave Palmer who manages the Co-operative Housing Project, here at the Centre.

Dave, in brief, how can co-operative housing projects help to increase the supply of affordable housing in Wales?

Developing and promoting new ways of providing land and funding for housing, such as community land trusts, mutual home ownership and co-operatives, sits alongside Welsh Government commitments to release public land for affordable housing, to help people find homes to suit their circumstances, to introduce flexible tenure arrangements, and to support social housing tenants to participate in the running of their homes and services. housing 1

Co-operatives could make a significant contribution to new, affordable, housing options that can help people’s needs at different stages of their lives, by consideration of establishing a new tenure relationship that has “commonality of interest at its heart”, heralding a desire to consider a co-operative housing tenure.

 Is this something that could prove particularly beneficial to first time buyers? 

There is strong evidence that there is an appetite for an increased supply of co-operative housing in Wales based on the responses of research participants, who responded overwhelmingly positively to the principles and housing models demonstrated. This is particularly the case for households who are currently priced out of the owner-occupied sector and whose needs are not so great that they are unable to, or choose not to access social housing. They may also find themselves somewhat reluctantly living in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). Therefore, the major area for agencies to focus on if co-operative housing is to meet housing needs, are these reluctant renters who want more security.

Since the credit crunch and the increasing difficulty such households face in accessing mortgages, this group is one which is growing year on year in the Welsh housing market, facing a ‘quadruple whammy  of increasing PRS rents, substantial mortgage deposit requirements, increasingly strict lending criteria and higher interest fees than existing mortgage customers

The research also showed that there exists demand for co-housing with no public subsidy required, but practical support assist in the development of schemes, which, when developed, will in turn free up properties for first time buyers.

The concept of co-operative housing is relatively new in Wales, so are there any success stories from other parts of the UK that show how it’s already working?

From the 1970s onwards, a number of small housing co-ops (often single shared houses) have been established using exclusively private sector funding such as ethical bank loans and “loanstock” arrangements.  Some of these are located in Wales, including the Golem housing co-operative in Swansea and Dol Llys Hall in Powys.

There has been a significant growth of Community Land Trusts (CLT), co-operative housing organisations based on local community memberships who own and steward land and other assets for community use. CLT membership will usually be open to people living in the homes built, but it will also be available to a wider community membership.  CLT examples include Lyvennet Community Trust in Cumbria, High Bickington Community Property Trust in North Devon, and East London CLT in London, to name a few of the 130 CLTs across the country.  West Rhyl Community Land Trust, supported by Denbighshire County Council, is the first example of a CLT in Wales.

Currently the only example of a Mutual Home Ownership society is the recently developed Lilac scheme in Leeds.  Also describing themselves as a “cohousing” scheme in that they are an intentional community with a communal house, Lilac’s members will each pay about 35% of their income for a lease of their homes, to cover the costs of Lilac’s group mortgage, management and maintenance costs and to buy equity in the project.  Lilac received funding and other support from the English Homes & Communities Agency, the Department of Energy & Climate Change and Leeds City Council, and has secured loan funding from ethical banks.

housing 2Cohousing organisations, based on American and Danish models, enable people to buy and sell homes in “intentional” communities built around communal facilities, in some cases, alongside other members who rent their homes, such as at the Threshold Centre in Dorset.  This approach, particularly popular for elderly people, but potentially relevant for all ages, has been adopted in 15 communities in the UK, with a further 40 currently exploring cohousing options.

The UK housing construction industry has been hit hard by the recession and other economic challenges of recent years. How much of a role can co-operative housing schemes play in boosting the industry?

Co-operative housing is a successful and attractive model of renting that can deliver what people want. Co-operative forms of home ownership could provide collective protection for an intermediate market from individual risk and market fluctuations, whilst capturing investment gains collectively.  At a time when extreme housing market vagaries have left many housing consumers insecure and unsure about the future, co-operative housing might be an alternative attractive option, not just to state provision of housing, but also to market provision.

Therefore, it could boost not only the smaller local builder, larger developer and the self-build elements across the whole of the industry, and address some of the training issues, as well as providing affordable, high quality homes and local communities.

The Wales Co-operative Centre and its partners are already working on potential co-operative housing developments. How far are we from the first co-operative housing tenants moving in, in Wales?

It is early days, but the pioneer projects that we are working on, are ready to deliver a range of rented, limited equity and market co-operative homes. The Wales Co-operative Centre and Welsh Government are keen to continue supporting and encouraging this positive start, by empowering the pioneers to deliver much needed homes.

The aim of the project is to have two ’Shovel Ready’ schemes, i.e. with Planning and Building Regs, ready to start on site by March 2014. We are ahead of this timescale with some partners.

What are the main things that need to happen between now and then?

It is vital that housing organisations, facilitating the development of a co-operative housing scheme invest time in a local awareness raising campaign. This will help to maximise consumer interest in membership and provide the opportunity to participate in a scheme, to as wide a population as possible.

Any promotional campaign run at a local level, by a housing organisation should consider very carefully how it ensures that it is effective in contacting harder-to-reach and minority groups, to ensure that co-operative housing schemes are inclusive.

That work is undertaken at both a national and local level to raise awareness of, and promote co-operative housing. The promotional/publicity material should target ‘reluctant private renters’ and should focus specifically on the:

  • affordability of co-operative housing
  • increased security offered by co-operative housing
  • benefits of living in an ‘intentional community’

That the Welsh Government and the housing sector consider what sort of mechanisms they could put in place to provide advice, support and assistance to co-housing groups in Wales, to assist them to move proposed developments forward. This support should not provide any form of subsidy for such groups, however the setting up of a national bridging loan mechanism, could be considered to help facilitate the developments, particularly for those who are ‘equity rich and cash poor’.

That the Welsh Government considers how it continues to support groups of co-operators and housing organisations, to continue to access expert financial and modelling advice beyond the conclusion of the Co-operative Housing Project based at the Wales Co-operative Centre.

To book a place on the Co-operative Housing seminar, at Co-operative Congress, please visit the official event website.

Written by Mark Smith

June 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Newport residents invited to participate in Co-operative Housing survey

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The Seren Group, which includes Charter Housing, is considering developing co-operative housing on part of the old Pirelli Factory site, just off Corporation Road in Maindee. Before the group moves forward with this idea, it housing photoneeds to find out whether Newport residents would be interested in living in co-operative housing. Seren is working with the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Chartered Institute of Housing to identify whether there is any demand for this form of housing in the City.

What is co-operative housing?

Co-operative housing is a form of housing where members (either tenants or owners) democratically control and manage their homes and play an active role in the life of the communities they live in. Co-operative housing is very common in other parts of Europe. There are a number of different types of co-operative housing, either for rent or for sale but they have one fundamental thing in common: they put democracy and community ownership at the heart of housing.

Some of the advantages of co-operative housing are:-

• An affordable form of home ownership

• A democratic and safe community

• Long term financing and security

• Flexible to meet occupiers needs

• Potential of shared benefits of communal energy

What is the plan for co-operative housing in Newport?

Seren’s plan for the old Pirelli site is to create a community of around 200 homes which will be a mix of homes for rent and to buy. The vision is of an ‘urban village’; bringing the community benefits of village life to the heart of the City. Seren would like to include an area of co-operative housing in this development, if there are enough people interested.

Why are we reaching out to you and what should you do next?

We are trying to find out whether you are interested in knowing more about the development of the Pirelli site and whether you are interested in being a part of the co-operative Seren wants to support on the site.

If you are interested in finding out more, please go online using this web address

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/co-operativehousinginnewport.

You’ll be asked to answer a few questions about yourself, your family, your current housing situation and to provide your contact details.

We will then write to you with more information about co-operative housing and an invitation to attend an event to tell you more about Seren’s plan and the types of co-operative housing that may be possible.

If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Dave Palmer from the Wales Co-operative Centre on 029 2055 6169.

Thank you.

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