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Cheaper and better homes – co-ops can empower Scottish tenants

This news post is almost 4 years old

Scotland has just 11 housing co-ops at a time when 150,000 people are on council house waiting lists

More housing cooperatives in Scotland would deliver cheaper rents, create stronger communities and transfer power to tenants according to a new report out today.

The report – Shared Spaces: How Scottish Housing Co-ops build communities – calls on the Scottish Government to take action to help develop cooperatives in a bid to improving housing conditions for Scotland’s poorest tenants.

Scotland has just 11 registered housing co-ops, compared to 685 across the UK – at a time when 150,000 people are on council house waiting lists.

MSPs heard from tenants of housing co-ops when the new report was launched by Co-operatives UK for the Cross Party Group on Co-operatives in the Scottish Parliament.

The report showcases three very different, but equally successful housing co-ops – West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op to the south east of Glasgow, Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op and Ploughshare in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh.

The report says the decline of social housing stock in Scotland (and parallel rise of the private rented sector) has created a major challenge for those looking for affordable homes in the social rented sector.

Nathan Bower-Bir, a member of Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op said: “Most student housing is either run down or outrageously expensive – or both. Student housing is now a lucrative investment opportunity – but students deserve homes over which they have control and that are integrated into wider society.”

Paul Farrell, chief executive of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op, said: “All the statistics show the day-to-day lives of tenants have improved under the co-op. Before we took over, there was no demand for homes and a high turnover of tenants. Within five years, we turned that around to increase demand and reduce turnover. That is still the case 25 years later.”

Anne Anderson, who has lived at West Whitlawburn for 40 years, and now chairs the WWHC Management Committee, said: “As a co-op, it is definitely better – it’s a much better environment, a better place to live. It’s much more of a community now.”

By highlighting successful housing co-ops in Scotland and what they can achieve, and bringing this to the attention of MSPs, the report authors aim to put the sector on the policy map.

The report includes an eight-point plan to help deliver more housing co-ops in Scotland. It wants a pilot programme to support the development of housing co-ops and the creation of a Cooperative Foundation to help finance larger community-led projects.

Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK said: “More people in Scotland deserve the choice to live in successful, affordable, collaborative communities. Scotland is ready for a more co-operative economy and we think that should start in the home.”

James Kelly MSP, convener of the Cross-Party Group on Co-ops, said: “We hope colleagues across the Scottish Parliament and beyond with an interest in co-operation, housing and social justice will read this report and support our recommendations for more co-operative housing in Scotland.”



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