Super Co-op




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.

The structure

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.

One Response to Super Co-op

  1. Isabelle Tastet says:

    Hi ,

    I think the idea of a super co-op is great . There is such a shortage of social housing stock in Lambeth that it is shocking . Then again I regularly see empty council / run down /boarded up property .It’s sad …
    I used to be a council tennant in Islington and had a small 1 bedroom flat . When I became pregnant back in 1995 I was told by Islington council that I would not be re-housed . As it would have been insane for the father of my child , my child and I to live in this liliputian flat , I reluctantly bought on a share ownership basis , a flat in Lambeth .
    It has been hard as even though we have always worked , owning a flat is very expensive as all repairs are now our responsibility .We had a 2nd child in 2005 and were unable to move anywhere bigger as we only own 50% share in our property and properties in Central London have gone up by so much …We love Brixton now , it is our home and we won’t move to Croydon just because gentrification has occured where we live . But we are overcrowded , badly …

    I must say that in 17 years I have seen Brixton gentrification take place and all my neighbours park their porshes and pay close to half a million pounds for their flat .
    I don’t resend them but we are only a few social ( or half social in my case) tennants left on Lambert road SW2 and we all know each others and look after each others , something the posh new owners seem to lack … it’s sad but the fabric of the community is just going to the dog … I firmly believe that there should be more class mixing in Brixton as it is what makes its charm and it is a reflection of society as a whole .

    I worry for my children though . They love Brixton too, it’s their home and where they have grown up and I can’t see them ever been able to afford to buy in Brixton unless they become a doctor or a lawyer . If the super co-op does happen , it may be a way for them to get on the housing ladder , via social housing at first maybe , the same way I did ?

    Can you let me know how I can help my teenage boy get his foot in the door so how can he join the super-coop if it happens ? does he need to register with the council ?

    I would love to volunteer to help with the co-op admin if that helps.

    Best regards

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