During the pandemic numerous independent student-led rent strikes sprang up across the UK in protest against rip-off landlords and excessive housing costs for students. The idea of paying over-the-top prices for accommodation that they couldn’t use during extended lock-downs was the final straw. But what next? A few students are taking matters in to their own hands and setting up housing co-op’s. They set their own rents and make their own decisions about who they’ll live with and what they’ll do to the house.
Managing your own housing co-op with a group is empowering. A power that can be carried through life. In my blog ten days to save Tir Cyffredin Housing Co-op I talked about the powerful difference living in a housing co-op made to my life. I lived in them in my mid-twenties, early thirties and mid-forties. And each time they came at the right moment for me. Pushing me on for the next stage in life.
So what’s not to like? The extra work-load is not for everyone, and setting housing co-ops from scratch can take months of admin, fundraising, member finding and learning on a very steep curve. Not necessarily what you can do when you’re just starting University, learning how to live away from home and just living. That’s why some groups are working with larger community organisations with paid staff who can do some of the heavy lifting and community engagement to get projects off-the ground and provide financing.
The community organisation can own the house or houses and lease it/them to the housing co-op. This leverages community support whilst giving students the autonomy they need to make their own decisions. Housing co-ops rarely fail but if one did for any reason the community organisation would own the house and be able to offer it to another housing co-op or in the worse case scenario sell it and give the community investors their money back.
This is the model used by Student Co-op Homes in England and most recently delivered by SEASALT Housing Co-op in Brighton, a city with a notorious shortage of affordable rentals. There’s no doubt this is a long-term project but student housing co-op’s are very common in countries like Canada so we know that it can work, given the right attention. That’s why we have invited Simin Wadiwala from SEASALT and Student Co-op Homes and Andy Woodcock from Catalyst Collective to share their knowledge at our Co-op’s Night event on October 20.
This event has the potential to kick start something completely new so please share the info if you know or are a student. It’s organised as part of the Wales Co-operative’s Community Led Housing Festival (Oct 18-21). Let people know. If you want to advocate for student housing co-op’s then come along too. We need allies to move this forward. Diolch yn fawr!
Wow, October here you are. September was a stellar month for housing co-ops. I was so excited to watch Tir Cyffredin housing co-op in Machynlleth reach and exceed their £140,000 fundraising goal and to see the first members of SEASALT student housing co-op move into their new home in Brighton.
It’s great to celebrate these moments of joy, progress and achievement and at the same time recognise that we’re only just scratching the surface of the housing crisis. It’s October and many people have had a whole summer waiting for answers. How will we carry on living in our communities? Get a good start in life with less debt? Move into safe secure housing when we get older? The housing question is a life’s work. A challenge that never goes away and one that seems to get harder with every passing month.
I love being part of the work that we all need to do, but housing co-ops are still one of the UK’s best kept housing secrets. Ask people if they know about housing co-op’s and a few might reply. ‘Someone I once knew once knew someone whose brother’s best friend’s girlfriend lived in a housing co-op.’ This is not the case in Europe and North America where housing co-ops are very popular and completely normal. Most people in the UK don’t know what housing co-ops are, who they are for or how to start one.
This is why I’ve created Co-op’s Night to run on October 20 as part of the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Community Led Housing Festival 2021. To give people a head’s up and a head start. I will be joined by leading co-operators Simin Wadiwala and Andy Woodcock and together we’ll explore the landscape, with bright lights! You can come all night or just drop in when you can. Feel free to bring food and drink. The evening will be very informative but also chilled. The only thing you definitely need to do is check the times (below) and book a place via Eventbrite!
Co-op’s Night is about getting you started, expanding your knowledge, bringing people and projects together. If you want to set up a housing co-op, are already in one and want to build your knowledge or just want to know what’s going on, join us.
My mission is to empower people to create successful housing co-ops so that housing co-op’s can empower the people who live in them. My experience is that it takes a village to raise a co-op so if you are already housed and not looking to move into a housing co-op come along anyway. You are needed. As advocates, allies, funders and knowledge sharers. Neither Tir Cyffredin or SEASALT would have been possible without the already housed stepping up and joining in. Be the village, create the change. See you on the 20th!
I live in Wales and through the Wales Co-operative Centre support groups in Wales but Co-op’s Night is open to all, wherever you are in the world! Croeso pawb i noson gydweithredu. Diolch yn fawr.
CLH Fest 2021 is happening October 18 – 21. View the whole festival programme here
18:45-19:45 Simin Wadiwala introduces co-ops, housing co-ops and student housing co-ops. This session has a focus on student housing co-ops but will be relevant to anyone who wants to learn something new about housing co-ops.
19:45-20:00 Break, chat, chill
20:00-21:00 Financing your housing co-op with Andy Woodcock. Housing co-ops need a financial plan and most of us know very little about finance! Andy is here to let you know what you need to think about and how to plan for long-term success.
21:00-21:30 Stick around for a chat and questions. Hosted by Allan Shepherd.
This event will take place on Zoom. You will receive the joining instructions by email shortly before the event. Please remember to check your spam and junk mail for these instructions if you do not receive them.
18:45 – 19:45 Bydd Simin Wadiwala yn cyflwyno cydweithfeydd, cydweithfeydd tai, a chydweithfeydd tai ar gyfer myfyrwyr. Bydd y sesiwn yma yn ffocusi ar gydweithfeydd tai myfyrwyr ond bydd yn ddefnyddiol ar gyfer unrhywun sydd eisiau dysgu rhywbeth newydd am gydweithfeydd tai.
19:45 – 20:00 Egwyl, sgwrsio, ymlacio
20:00 – 21:00 Cyllido eich cydweithfa tai gyda Andy Woodcock. Mae cydweithfeydd tai angen cynllun cyllid ac mae mwyafrif ohonon ni ond yn gwybod ychydig am gyllid! Mae Andy yma i adael i chi wybod beth mae angen meddwl amdan a sut i gynllunio ar gyfer llwyddiant tymor hir.
21:00 – 21:30 Sgwrsio a chwestiynau gydag Allan Shepherd.
Simin Wadiwala is part of the new generation of co-operators working to create new models of housing to combat the housing crisis and tackle underlying inequalities in housing. She is part of Student Co-op Homes and Seasalt Student Housing Co-operative in Brighton. Her talk will focus on student co-op homes but will be relevant for anyone who wants to know what a housing co-op is and how to go about starting one.
Andy Woodcock is part of Catalyst Collective and Radical Routes. They act as an advisor to Co-ops UK and the Wales Co-operative Centre amongst others and have supported many housing co-ops to create a sound financial plan. Andy delivers training sessions on financing for projects ranging from small housing co-ops to multiple dwelling new-builds. Tonight’s session will focus on co-op financing. How to make it work. What you need to think about.
Allan Shepherd will be hosting Co-op’s Night. Allan is a Community Led Housing Officer for the Wales Co-operative Centre. He lived in housing co-ops for about a decade and has recently supported Wales’ newest housing co-op Tir Cyffredin to raise the money they need to buy their house.
The Wales Co-operative Centre is supported by Welsh Government and the Nationwide Foundation to deliver more affordable housing in Wales. We support groups based in Wales through our client programmes but this session is relevant to the whole of the UK.
Mae Simin Wadiwala yn rhan o’r genhedlaeth newydd o gydweithredwyr sy’n gweithio i greu modelau tai newydd i frwydro yn erbyn yr argyfwng tai a mynd i’r afael ag anghydraddoldebau sylfaenol mewn tai. Mae hi’n rhan o Student Co-op Homes a Seasalt Student Housing Co-operative yn Brighton. Bydd ei sgwrs yn canolbwyntio ar gartrefi cydweithredol myfyrwyr ond bydd yn berthnasol i unrhyw un sydd eisiau gwybod beth yw cydweithfa dai a sut i fynd ati i ddechrau un.
Mae Andy Woodcock yn rhan o Catalyst Collective a Radical Routes. They act as an advisor to Co-ops UK and the Wales Co-operative Centre amongst others and have supported many housing co-ops to create a sound financial plan. Mae Andy yn cyflwyno sesiynau hyfforddi ar ariannu ar gyfer prosiectau sy’n amrywio o gydweithfeydd tai bach i adeiladau newydd i nifer o anheddau. Bydd sesiwn heno yn canolbwyntio ar ariannu cydweithredol. Sut i wneud iddo weithio. Beth sydd angen i chi feddwl amdano.
Bydd Allan Shepherd yn cynnal Noson Cydweithredol. Mae Allan yn Swyddog Tai Dan Arweiniad y Gymuned ar gyfer Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru. Bu’n byw mewn cydweithfeydd tai am oddeutu degawd ac yn ddiweddar mae wedi cefnogi cydweithfa dai fwyaf newydd Cymru, Tir Cyffredin i godi’r arian sydd ei angen arnynt i brynu eu tŷ.
Cefnogir Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru gan Lywodraeth Cymru a Sefydliad Nationwide i ddarparu mwy o dai fforddiadwy yng Nghymru. Rydym yn cefnogi grwpiau yng Nghymru trwy ein rhaglenni cleientiaid ond mae’r sesiwn hon yn berthnasol i’r DU gyfan.
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.
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.
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.
I have lived in Machynlleth Housing Coop for six years and its time to share what I know about coop living. Join me for a Wales Co-operative Centre Learning Together webinar on Friday May 29th between 10am and 11.30. I’ll talk about how we got started and grew, how we work together and some of the pros and cons of cooperative living, and how to manage them. I’m happy to answer any questions about housing coops as well as about our coop specifically. Book through Eventbrite.
I live in a housing co-op in Machynlleth, mid-Wales and work as a community housing enabler for the Wales Co-operative Centre. Usually I travel around Wales meeting different community groups who want to create their own housing projects. Now that we’re in lockdown I’m learning how to deliver what I do through other mediums. So over the next few months I’ll be creating some on-line webinars and video content to help people understand what community housing is and how they can do it for themselves. Starting off with this video from my back garden on youtube. Looking forward to meeting you on a zoom webinar sometime soon!