Proposal For Lambeth United: The Super Co-op
Recycling Lambeth’s Void Houses
July 2012 Draft
The proposed Super Co-op is a scheme that would provide an umbrella co-op for existing “shortlife” and future refurbishment activity. Under this umbrella, Lambeth United (the body formed from the amalgamation of former Shortlife housing co-ops in Lambeth) would take and repair void properties for an agreed period, at the end of which time residents would be offered a full council tenancy. The super co-op would in effect act as a new vehicle for recycling voids into the council stock, without the council paying over-the-odds for refurbishment.
1. How it works
Lambeth council sets up a system where selected void properties, and empty properties needing refurbishment, are separated out from the various bodies responsible for council housing (be it ALMOS, TMOs , or properties managed by Housing Associations).
This is much like the original intention behind ‘Shortlife’, back in the 1970s, but this time round it should be seen as strategy for economically renovating houses by using members of the community willing to invest their time and energy into houses and thus creating “sweat equity” in the properties. This would be better known as ‘Lambeth United Refurbishment Scheme’ .
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 in recognition of their contribution to Lambeth’s housing stock via their “sweat equity” investment.
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.
2. The cost of refurbishment would be covered by:
1. The the rental income that the co-op receives from people living in its properties.
2. 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.
3. A limited subsidy from the council which would reflect that fact that they are not paying Morrisson’s etc commercial building/ refurb costs or Camelot for occupation of voids etc., perhaps based on the New Homes Bonus that local authorities receive for each property brought back into use.
4. Other possible sources – English Heritage etc, Catalyst Collective,
3. 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 and would have expended time and energy renovating Lambeth’s housing stock and thereby have created a sweat equity “account” which can be traded in for a tenancy.
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.
Co-operatives build strong stable communities, it’s an inherent characteristic – this can only benefit the borough of Lambeth.
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-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 co-op will encourage continuation of co-op membership and involvement, past the point at which the property is ‘returned’ to general housing stock.
4. The structure Of Lambeth United
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 will act 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, and it would reduce the number of voids on Lambeth’s books.
The Super Co-op is completely in line with the ideas laid out in Lambeth’s Housing Commission report of 2012, and, if successful, it could be used as a template for other boroughs.
17th July, 2012