Developing Co-operative Housing in Wales
Co-operative housing is a community-led approach to housing, where residents democratically control and manage their homes.
The Welsh Government sponsored Co-operative Housing Project aims to stimulate and increase the supply of co-operative housing in Wales. It supports the development of a variety of different housing co-operative models and aims to improve the skills and expertise of members of co-operative housing schemes in Wales to ensure their long term sustainability.
Here, Wales Co-operative Centre’s Co-operative Housing Project Manager Dave Palmer offers an update on developments in Wales.
There is an appetite for co-operative housing in Wales. Co-operative housing appeals to ‘reluctant renters’ – people who are currently priced out of the owner-occupied sector and who are unable to access social housing.
The Co-operative Housing Project initially focussed on general needs housing but is now also networking with providers in social services and health sectors. Housing co-operatives can provide more than just housing, they can also promote well being and provide care services for their members.
In 2012 the project started with eight pioneer schemes. There are now over 25 schemes at varying stages of development.
These schemes will deliver 124 completed homes before the project ends in March 2016. If all emerging pioneer schemes progress, there is the potential for over five hundred co-operative homes across the whole of Wales.
The project is supported by Welsh Government and three of the original pilot pioneer schemes, in Newport, Cardiff and Carmarthen, have received a total £1.9m social housing grant as work is progressing on site.
These three ‘Pilot Pioneers’ were identified early on in their development process, as having real potential for delivery of homes. They were encouraged to prepare business plans and bid for Welsh Government grant support.
In Newport, funding has been used to support Shared Ownership co-operative houses within a large mixed tenure ‘Garden Village’ style development called Loftus Gardens. As construction work progresses on site, the new co-operative is forming and currently there are four potential member homeowners. The aim is to recruit more members, in order to have ten member homeowners by Christmas and twenty members by June 2015.
In Carmarthenshire, funding has been used to support 27 co-operative Intermediate Rent homes being developed by the County Council in partnership with Gwalia Housing Association. These are designed in two rows of short terraces in Jobswell Road, in the centre of Carmarthen. Public meetings have been very well attended and members of co-op are being recruited. One of the homes will be shared housing with the support integrated into the community.
In Cardiff, the Funding has been used by Cadwyn Housing Association to support the delivery of a further 10 co-operative social rent properties within their ‘Garden Village’ style Ely Farm housing development. The plan already includes 31 homes for social rent and 41 Co-operative houses and flats. Members have been elected as Officers of Home Farm Village Housing Co-operative. As the homes are being built on site, members are looking forward to moving in as a Community in June 2015.
There are also several advanced projects that have the potential to deliver homes in the near future. These include:
West Rhyl Community Land Trust (CLT) – West Rhyl – A proposal for the refurbishment and conversion of properties to provide 4 apartments, a commercial unit and 8 new build houses has been submitted for planning by North Wales Housing Association, in partnership with West Rhyl CLT, who already have 3 co-operative refurbished homes. Work on site is expected to start with demolition in early December 2014 and completion of the scheme is expected to be October 2015. The Community Land Trust already has a waiting list of over 80 prospective tenant/members in place for these homes.
Beechley Road – Cardiff –Cadwyn Housing Association is proposing to develop a Tenant Led Housing Co-op in Pentrebane. The residential element will be new build with 11 houses and 2 flats. Completion will be in August 2015.
Gellideg Flats, Merthyr – A proposal has been submitted to Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council by Merthyr Valley Homes to form a Leasehold Co-op to refurbish some blocks of flats in Taff Fechan. This will be a special purpose vehicle (SPV), which will lease the properties to the newly formed housing organisation called ‘Gellideg Co-op’, and registered under the Co-operative Benefit Societies Act 2014.
‘Ty Cyfle’ Garndiffaith, Torfaen – Bron Afon Housing Association with ‘Afon Youth’ have refurbished a 4 storey block of 8 flats to provide separate flats, training and community rooms. The young people have been involved in the building works as apprentices 2 days a week and the project is nearing completion. The group is currently working on Terms of Reference for the Management Committee of this co-operative project.
The Wales Co-operative Centre has received matched funding from Nationwide Foundation which will provide over 375 hours of support to these co-operative housing schemes, over the next 20 months.
Exciting developments are beginning to appear all over Wales with self-build schemes in Wrexham, housing association let schemes in Presteigne and Hay On Wye. Developments are planned in Lampeter and St David’s as well as the potential for a large scale Community Land Trust organisation in North Wales.
Finding affordable housing is difficult for people trapped in the gap between social provision and being able to afford to step onto the housing ladder. Co-operative housing offers a solution that many people find attractive as it supports ownership and encourages community. There is a massive untapped potential for co-operative housing in Wales and this project aims to develop real co-operative communities and bring the approach into the mainstream.
The success of the Welsh Government programme is evident in the number of new co-operative housing schemes being incubated. What has already been achieved in a comparably short period of time is remarkable given the standing start from which this work came.
The project is working hard to bring all the pioneers together to learn from each other and support each other through their development. Ultimately the aim is for these new pioneers to help support other new housing co-operatives in to the future creating a sustainable legacy for this project.
To find out more about the Co-operative Housing project visit the website http://www.walescooperative.org/cooperative-housing or if you would like to discuss an idea for a new co-operative housing project, call Dave Palmer on 0300 111 5050.