LAMBETH UNITED, THE SUPER CO-OP: RECYCLING LAMBETH’S HOUSES
The Super Co-op is a scheme that would provide an umbrella co-op for existing “shortlife”. Under this umbrella, co-op led maintenance would continue to be carried out before a full council tenancy would kick in for the resident. When homes pass into council stock, more homes would then come in to the Super Co-op and be recycled into council stock without the council paying over-the-odds for refurbishment.
How it works
Lambeth council sets up a system where void properties, and empty properties needing refurbishment, are separated out from the main body of housing stock.
This is much like the original intention behind ‘Shortlife’, back in the 1970s. Though, for obvious reasons it would not be called `Shortlife’!
Properties that need renovation are then allocated to one single co-op, Lambeth United Housing Co-operative, for a period of, for example, 2 to 5 years (dependent on surveyors reports), and the co-op oversees renovation and refurbishment.
After this period, the houses are returned to the general council stock, with occupants included. Each occupant cancels their co-op membership and becomes a full council tenant.
As properties are returned to the main housing stock, other houses for renovation are brought in to Co-op to replace the ones that have just been refurbished.
The cost of refurbishment would be covered by:
1. the the rental income that the co-op receives
2. other possible sources – English Heritage, Catalyst Collective, etc
3. the labour input of the tenant and their neighbours (many co-op members are skilled in various trades and have already brought this to bear on their homes and the homes of their neighbours. These people would help educate successive generations of co-op tenants).
Organisations like Build-It have indicated their willingness to help.
4. if required, any limited subsidy from the council (limited because they’re not paying contractors exorbitant building/refurb costs or vacant property managers for occupation of voids etc)
Incentives and responsibilities
The effectiveness of the co-op is enhanced by the ‘promise’ of full council tenancy at the end of the allocated period, by which time the occupant has shown they’re a responsible member of the community etc etc.
The co-op would have a regular turnover of officers and members, though there has to be some continuity built into the process.
The co-op would only take people off the housing register who understand they will be expected to play an active part in the refurbishment of the property they’re living in.
There are a variety of ‘jobs’ that can be done within a housing co-op, not just the manual work of renovation. Administrative and educative roles are key.
Co-operatives build strong stable communities, it’s an inherent characteristic – this can only benefit the borough of Lambeth.
Co-operative schemes are labour intensive and demand time, energy and focus. This has to be recognised.
Lambeth United have already proven their commitment to the co-operative ideal, and wish to continue living, and working, in this manner.
Lambeth United can proceed along either a `fully mutual’ or `non-fully mutual’ basis dependent on what benefits and disadvantages are outweighed by being one or the other. The key things to consider are what kind of tenancies can be issued and whether the Super Co-op would benefit from taking on non-Co-op members.
It is arguable that the Super Co-op may require a partner housing association, however, independent Co-ops have flourished (eg Ekarro) and so this route could also be examined.
Lambeth United acts as a recycling scheme for council properties, as well as providing low cost housing and on-the-job co-op work experience.
Importantly, there will be an immediate positive impact on Lambeth’s housing stock and Lambeth’s housing budget.
Lambeth council would have no void properties on their books.
If successful. this could be used as a template for other boroughs.
Please note: since this draft LUHC have discussed the possibility of a purer co-op option that keeps properties under the auspices of LUHC.
Another option would be for the residents to be allowed to pay a social rent for their homes (as they would be doing elsewhere anyway, if and when they are forced out) but continue to do their own repairs – thus meaning that the council’s housing pot is added to at one end, but not drawn upon at the other.