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.
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
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