One of the bedrooms
Living in a co-op...
Do you think your friends are obsessed with house prices? Are you still on the council waiting list or living in inadequate private rented accommodation? Chapeltown resident Dom Marsh lives in a housing co-op and reckons it's the way forward.
A housing co-op is a formal co-operative contract that allows friends to buy a house together, form a limited company and pay rent to the housing company. This in turn then pays off the mortgage. People move in or move on, without the need for buy-outs, and you can change, decorate and adapt the house as you wish. Does it sound too good to be true?
Dom Marsh moved into a Chapeltown housing co-op called Cornerstone two and a half years ago, He says it was the best decision he has ever made.
This is Dom's story...
"I moved to Leeds ten years ago. I came to do a degree in Chinese, I graduated in 2005 and stayed in the city. Initially I lived in rented accommodation and it was really frustrating. There was a complete lack of control and I felt totally ripped off.
Soon I moved into a squat where I lived for two years. Compared to renting the experience was fantastic.
Everyone uses a bike
We had some control back over our lives just by getting rid of the landlord. It made me realise what millions of people have to put up with, either through privately renting or through negotiation with a housing provider.
The problem with living in a squat (and renting) was I could never plant a tree in the back garden because the landlord would mow it down so after two years in the squat was aching for some permanence.
I live a low income, low impact lifestyle. People like me are never going to be able to afford to buy their own home. I had heard of Cornerstone Housing Co-op and their ideology fitted with mine, so I applied.
For me, a housing co-op is vastly superior to most forms of social housing because of the level of control you have - but then we do have responsibility as well, if something is broken we have to fix it, this feels very empowering. It is a luxury to be able to own your own home, to fix things, to take control of the space in which you live. Here as long as everyone agrees, we can do what we like.
There are two houses owned by Cornerstone Housing Co-op The mortgages are in the name of the co-op and we pay rent that goes towards paying off the mortgage. The rent is around £40/£50 a week, which covers the mortgage, maintenance, water rates, council tax. Because we are all low earners we pay quite a large proportion of our income on the house, but living together we get so much back.
We have a food kitty, and we buy from an ethical co-operative which sells vegan fair-trade, organic, local produce. In this house, six out of eight of us have our own allotment and we grow vegetables in our sizeable garden out the back. It's a source of pride to come back from the allotment with food and share it out.
Back of the house
I think it's a really good time for people to think about alternative housing and setting up housing co-ops. For ethical mortgage companies a lot of places look very favourable on housing co-ops, they have a really good track record of not defaulting on mortgage payments.
Our longest co-op member has lived here for 14 years, I can't imaging living anywhere else. After the squat, this feels very peaceful. It can feel a bit stressful sharing but if the alternative is living in a box with a toilet and kitchen in a block of 300 people who are also living in the same flat complex, I know what I would choose. I can't imagine living in a box and not knowing our neighbours, it's a completely soulless way of living.
We aim for a low income low impact lifestyle and we don't want it any other way. Getting over the desire for more and more money is a really big challenge but after that it's really liberating. This is how people should live sharing and co-operating and everyone is richer because of it."
last updated: 20/07/2009 at 18:31
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