Ten days left to save Tir Cyffredin housing co-op.

It’s crunch time for Wales’ newest housing co-operative Tir Cyffredin. They have only ten days left to raise the £140,000 they need to buy their home. Success means seven affordable spaces to rent and a valuable community hub for generations to come. Failure means members having to leave their home and the house going on to the open market. To become what? A second home? More Airbnb accommodation?

That’s why I’m doing all I can to support them, both through my job as a Community Led Housing Officer for the Wales Co-operative Centre but also by pledging my own personal support for their loan stock issue. Loan stock is a financial mechanism that allows people to invest in housing co-ops. It is crucially the only way most housing co-ops can build their deposit or make up any shortfall the mortgage won’t cover.

It’s an unsecured loan so there’s a risk attached but all being well the money will be back with me in five years with 3% interest added. In the meantime my money will have helped put a roof over people’s head and given those people better life chances. I know this because I lived in a housing co-op myself for seven years and being there completely changed my life.

Apart from providing me with a safe secure affordable home for seven years it gave me community, a support network, new social and work opportunities. It allowed me the flexibility to take on a major life challenge of cycling across Europe, which transformed my mental and physical health. It gave me space to grow fresh healthy organic food for five people in a beautiful south-facing garden (something I could only dream of before!)

After previously living alone for ten years I gained never-ending company (sometimes a little too never-ending!). Not to mention hundreds of incredible meals lovingly prepared by my housemates (can’t tell you how much they improved my wellbeing!) and of course the countless conversations about so many different subjects that came with those meals. Over the course of seven-years I got to meet hundreds of new people, most importantly the person who is now my fiancée.

As a member of a housing co-op I also saw the power we had to change the lives of other people, sometimes just by softening the barriers between the private and the public space. By making our space and resources available to people who didn’t live in the co-op we generated a huge amount of informal learning, skills and capacity building which made life better for lots of people. Quite simple things sometimes like hosting a bike repair workshop, or letting people stay when they needed a temporary home. Sometimes bigger things like being a mutual aid hub during the first lockdown. We took the energy of all of us and sent it outwards.

When you invest in a co-op that is committed to sharing its space and energy you are investing not just in the members but in everyone who comes into contact with that space. As such I am confident that Tir Cyffredin will benefit a much wider community beyond the people who live there. It will provide common ground (the English translation of Tir Cyffredin) upon which other things can grow.

It has already committed to carry on hosting for the next six years the organising hub for the El Sueno Festival. This long-running festival brings artists from across Wales and the world together to celebrate and support positive change. I know they have lots of other plans, all of which will benefit the wider community. If the house is lost to private ownership all this will be lost too. The energy, the possibility, the promise that comes with groups having common purpose.

I grew up watching the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart as frustrated banker George Bailey. One of the high points of the film is the moment George saves the town’s buildings and loan firm by reminding all the deposit holders that their money is tied up with every one of their neighbours, invested in better housing for everyone and the decent chance at life that comes with it. This is the bank of community. A rising tide that lifts all the boats. As George Bailey says ‘we’ve got to stick together, we’ve got to have faith in each other’. Isn’t that what the pandemic has taught us too? That we can each play a part in building back better?

Currently in Wales, there is no public financing available for housing co-operatives, beyond the support our Communities Creating Homes programme gives, and, until that changes it is down to the wider community to step in, bridge the funding gap and unlock the potential. We all benefit from thriving community spaces and having people around that believe in community and are prepared to do something positive about supporting it. I know that the members themselves – Sadie, Ailsa, Gareth, Badger and JoJo ­- will do this as all of them are involved in community projects already and will only build on that once they know they can live in a secure affordable home.

As an advisor I see how much sweat it takes to create a new housing co-op from scratch. In the case of Tir Cyffredin quite literally as two of the members will give their time for free to help a local builder to create two new bedrooms. If creating homes is a game of snakes and ladders my job is to help groups avoid the snakes and climb the ladders. Most of the hard work is done by the members themselves. For them it’s like having an extra job without a salary, the benefits of which will be enjoyed by others, long after they themselves have left. Some groups never make it home, but Tir Cyffredin have all the possibility of success. The only ladder they need now is you.

Mae’n unfed awr ar ddeg i gwmni tai cydweithredol diweddaraf Cymru, Tir Cyffredin. Gydag ychydig wythnos ar ôl yn unig i godi’r swm o £140,000 y mae ei angen arnynt er mwyn prynu eu cartref, mae eu dyfodol yn y fantol.

Ar gyfer cydweithfa dai Tir Cyffredin Byddai llwyddiant yn golygu saith lle fforddiadwy i’w rentu ynghyd â hwb cymunedol am genedlaethau i ddod. Byddai methiant yn golygu y byddai’n rhaid i aelodau adael eu cartref a bydd y cartref yn cael ei werthu ar y farchnad agored. Yna beth fydd yn dod ohono? Ail gartref? Mwy o lety Airbnb?

Dyna pam yr wyf yn gwneud popeth y gallaf ei wneud i gefnogi Tir Cyffredin, trwy fy swydd fel Swyddog Tai a Arweinir gan y Gymuned ar gyfer Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru, ond hefyd trwy addo fy nghefnogaeth bersonol i’w benthyciad stoc. Mae benthyciad stoc yn fecanwaith ariannol sy’n caniatáu i bobl fuddsoddi mewn cwmnïau tai cydweithredol. Hon yw’r unig ffordd y gall y rhan fwyaf o gwmnïau tai cydweithredol sicrhau eu blaendal neu dalu unrhyw ddiffyg na all y morgais dalu amdano, ac mae hyn yn hanfodol. Mae’n fenthyciad diwarant felly ceir risg, ond os bydd popeth yn mynd yn iawn, bydd yr arian yn cael ei roi yn ôl i mi ymhen pum mlynedd, gyda llog o 3% wedi’i ychwanegu iddo.

Yn y cyfamser, bydd fy arian wedi helpu i ddarparu cartref a chynnig cyfleoedd gwell mewn bywyd i’r bobl hynny. Rydw i’n gwybod hyn oherwydd yr arferwn fyw mewn cartref cwmni tai cydweithredol fy hun am saith mlynedd, ac roedd fy nghyfnod yno wedi newid fy mywyd yn llwyr. Rhoddodd yr hyblygrwydd i mi ymgymryd â her fawr mewn bywyd, sef seiclo ar draws Ewrop, a oedd wedi trawsnewid fy iechyd corfforol a meddyliol.

Rhoddodd y lle i mi dyfu bwyd organig iach a ffres i bump o bobl mewn gardd hyfryd a oedd yn wynebu’r de (rhywbeth a oedd wedi bod yn freuddwyd yn unig i mi cyn hynny!)

Ar ôl byw ar fy mhen fy hun am ddeng mlynedd, cefais gwmni diddiwedd (a oedd yn rhy ddiddiwedd ar brydiau!). Heb sôn am y cannoedd o brydau anhygoel a baratowyd gan y bobl y bûm yn byw gyda nhw (roedden nhw wedi gwella fy lles yn aruthrol!) ac wrth gwrs, y sgyrsiau di-ri am gymaint o wahanol bynciau a gododd yn ystod y prydau hynny. Dros saith mlynedd, cefais y cyfle i gyfarfod cannoedd o bobl newydd, ac yn bwysicaf oll, fy nyweddi.

Fel aelod o gwmni tai cydweithredol, gwelais hefyd y grym a oedd gennym i newid bywydau pobl arall, weithiau trwy feddalu’r rhwystrau rhwng y lle preifat a chyhoeddus. Trwy sicrhau bod ein lle a’n hadnoddau ar gael i bobl nad oeddent yn byw yn safle y cwmni cydweithredol, llwyddom i ysgogi swm aruthrol o ddysgu anffurfiol, sgiliau a meithrin gallu, a oedd wedi gwella bywydau nifer fawr o bobl. Pethau digon syml weithiau fel cynnal gweithdy trwsio beics neu ganiatáu i bobl aros pan fyddai angen cartref dros dro arnynt. Weithiau, pethau mwy fel bod yn ganolfan cymorth ar y cyd yn ystod y cyfnod clo cyntaf. Aethom ati i gyfeirio’r holl egni a oedd yn bodoli rhyngom allan i’r byd.

Pan fyddwch yn buddsoddi mewn cwmni cydweithredol sydd wedi ymrwymo i rannu ei le a’i egni, rydych yn buddsoddi yn yr aelodau ac ym mhawb sy’n cael cyswllt gyda’r lle hwnnw. O’r herwydd, rydw i’n teimlo’n hyderus y bydd Tir Cyffredin yn cynnig budd i gymuned llawer ehangach na’r bobl sy’n byw yno yn unig. Bydd yn darparu tir cyffredin lle y gall pethau eraill dyfu.

Mae eisoes wedi ymrwymo i barhau i gynnal y ganolfan drefnu ar gyfer Gŵyl El Sueno am y chwe blynedd nesaf. Mae’r ŵyl hon wedi bod yn cael ei chynnal ers tro, gan ddwyn artistiaid o bob cwr o Gymru a’r byd ynghyd i ddathlu a cefnogi newid cadarnhaol. Gwn bod ganddyn nhw nifer fawr o gynlluniau eraill, y byddant oll yn cynnig budd i’r gymuned ehangach. Os collir y tŷ i berchnogion preifat, collir hyn oll hefyd. Yr egni, y posibilrwydd, yr addewid a ddaw yn sgil grwpiau yn rhannu diben cyffredin.

Pan oeddwn i’n ifanc, gwyliais y ffilm Nadoligaidd glasurol It’s a Wonderful Life, lle y mae James Stewart yn actio rhan George Bailey, y bancwr rhwystredig. Un o uchafbwyntiau’r ffilm yw’r eiliad y mae George yn achub adeiladau a chwmni benthyciadau y dref trwy atgoffa’r holl ddeiliaid blaendal bod eu harian gyda phob un o’u cymdogion, wedi’i fuddsoddi mewn tai gwell i bawb a’r siawns teg mewn bywyd sy’n dod gyda hynny. Dyma fanc cymuned. Llanw sy’n codi ac sy’n codi’r holl gychod. Fel y mae George Bailey yn ei ddweud, ‘rhaid i ni aros gyda’n gilydd, rhaid i ni gael ffydd yn ein gilydd’. Onid hon yw gwers y pandemig hefyd? Y gallwn oll gyfrannu at yr adfer er gwell?Ar hyn o bryd yng Nghymru, nid oes cyllid cyhoeddus ar gael i gwmnïau tai cydweithredol, y tu hwnt i’r cymorth a roddir gan ein rhaglen Cymunedau yn Creu Cartref, a nes y bydd hynny yn newid, rhaid i’r gymuned ehangach gamu i’r adwy, pontio’r bwlch ariannol a datgloi’r potensial.

Rydym oll yn cael budd gan fannau cymunedol sy’n ffynnu a chael pobl sy’n credu mewn cymuned ac y maent yn barod i wneud rhywbeth cadarnhaol ynghylch ei chynorthwyo. Rydw i’n gwybod y bydd yr aelodau eu hunain – Sadie, Ailsa, Gareth, Badger a JoJo – yn gwneud hyn gan fod pob un ohonynt yn ymwneud â phrosiectau cymunedol yn barod, a’r unig bryd y byddant yn datblygu hynny yw pan fyddant yn gwybod y gallant fyw mewn cartref diogel a fforddiadwy. Fel cynghorydd, rydw i’n gweld faint o ymdrech y mae’n ei gymryd i sefydlu cwmni tai cydweithredol newydd.

Yn achos Tir Cyffredin, bydd dau o’r aelodau yn rhoi eu hamser am ddim er mwyn helpu adeiladwr lleol i greu dwy ystafell wely newydd. Os yw creu cartrefi fel gêm nadroedd ac ysgolion, fy swydd i yw helpu grwpiau i osgoi’r nadroedd a dringo’r ysgolion. Cyflawnir rhan fwyaf y gwaith caled gan yr aelodau eu hunain. Iddyn nhw, mae hyn fel cael swydd ychwanegol heb gyflog, y bydd eraill yn mwynhau ei fanteision ymhell ar ôl iddyn nhw adael. Ni fydd rhai grwpiau fyth yn cyrraedd gartref, ond mae gan Dir Cyffredin y posibilrwydd llawn o lwyddo. Yr unig ysgol y mae ei hangen arnynt nawr yw chi.

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