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Co-operative Housing: models for students

Introduction

Students want affordable, safe, high-quality housing. In too many towns and cities across the UK there's a shortage of such properties and students live in expensive, unsuitable or inconveniently situated houses.

Moreover, other residents often feel that students don't involve themselves in their communities and don't take their responsibilities to their neighbours seriously. This criticism can often be unfair – but it can also contain some truth.

Co-operative housing is no panacea to such issues, but NUS firmly believes it can play a vital part in providing a range of housing options for students. It provides affordable, secure housing and it gives students control over their living arrangements in a way that actively promotes responsibility and a strong community spirit.

Most importantly, we know it works. There are some student housing co-ops set up in the 1970s which are still going strong today, and a number of schemes in operation or being set up.

NUS itself cannot set up or fund co-ops – that isn't our role. But we really want to encourage students and students' unions to consider different options around co-ops and perhaps one will be right for them.

This page seeks to bring together information and resources on co-operative housing schemes for students. If you have anything you want to contribute to the page we'd be keen to hear from you – please email us.

What are housing co-ops?

Co-operative housing is a system of shared ownership, where tenants of properties purchase a share in the scheme (usually for a nominal fee) and then elect a management committee.

The management committee and members of the co-operative then decide how to run the properties involved. This includes setting rents, dealing with arrears or other problems, arranging repairs and managing the funds of the scheme.

Rents are generally low, and by giving everyone a say in how their properties operate co-ops promote democratic values and social responsibility. Ideal, we believe, for many students.

You can read more about co-operatives here.

Co-operative housing makes up only a small part of the current housing stock in the UK. But this could easily expand, and finding the right means of opening up co-ops to students is key to NUS policy on the issue.

We believe students' unions could play a key role in this, and several have already considered how they might do this. Below are some initial ideas on how co-ops might be set up in your area.

Models for student co-operative housing

There is no one definitive model for student housing co-ops. Schemes could be big or small, involving lots of partners or very few. Larger schemes will very likely require substantial financial backing – but this is by no means impossible.

Here are some different possibilities for co-op housing.

Larger Co-ops

For any co-operative housing project, two questions would arise: securing a suitable property or land area, and then the finances to convert or build the property. For large-scale projects, the challenges are amplified – but there are some examples of how this could work.

Some community developers are looking to include student housing co-ops in their work. One such example is Brixton Green. If you know of major social-enterprise developers, you could contact them to see if a student housing co-operative could be included in their plans.

Otherwise it is a matter of setting up such projects yourself. We hope soon to be provide some more extensive material on potential avenues for funding developments of this nature, as proposed by the co-operative movement. Such schemes could involve universities leasing properties or land to a co-operative scheme, with financial backing provided by long-term investors such as pension funds.

Keep checking back to this page for this information. However, in the meantime, if you are interested in such a project contact us and we can discuss this with you and get you more information now.

Small scale co-ops

To an extent, much of the same advice applies for smaller-scale projects as for larger scale, except that there are some schemes available to those wishing to develop smaller projects. Again, a university may have properties or land it would be willing to use for this sort of scheme, and a students' union could be involved in setting up the project.

One such finance package is provided by Co-op and Community Finance – see here for more details.

Self-Help Housing

Self-help housing is a way of getting hold of housing, but without having to purchase any land or buildings. It involves borrowing empty properties which are in limbo (often owned by local authorities) for specified periods of time, and then running them through a student led housing co-operative. It's legal to do so, has the support of Shelter, and there are several schemes already running across the country.

Download the leaflet to find out more, and then visit Self Help Housing to find out how to do it.

More information

For more information on housing co-operatives, follow these links:

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