Co-operative housing push to help 'reluctant renters'

Image caption More than two-thirds asked did not know about co-operative housing schemes

Housing owned and built by groups of people could help turn "reluctant renters" into home owners, a new report suggests.

But co-operative housing schemes are little known in Wales, the study for the Wales Co-operative Centre warns.

The research was commissioned following the Welsh government's own decision to back such projects as a way to build affordable homes.

Currently, co-operative housing accounts for less than 1% of UK homes.

In Estonia, nearly 10,000 co-operative housing organisations own 60% of the country's houses while they account of one in five homes in Sweden and Poland.

Under co-operative housing models, groups of like-minded people can come together and buy land to provide housing, and members of that co-op group can then buy shares in the new homes.

It is an alternative to renting properties, and gives those in the new homes a financial stake in the housing, without resorting to heavy mortgage debt.

"Wales has a long tradition of co-operation and a government with a strong commitment to co-operative approaches," said Keith Edwards, from the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru (CIHC), which was one of the report's authors.

"The housing crisis we face demands imaginative responses and co-operative housing is at the forefront of new thinking," he added.

The study was commissioned by the Wales Co-operative Centre, and carried out by the CIHC and the Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH).

They spoke to nearly 300 people in Wales, most of them living in the private rented sector at the moment and what the researchers termed "reluctant renters".

All of them expressed an interest in what such schemes could offer them but 67% had never heard of co-operative housing before.

"It was really exciting that so many of the ordinary people who came to the sessions had never heard of co-operative housing before but immediately got it," said Nic Bliss, chair of the CCH.

"And that they were particularly into it for community reasons.

"The potential for co-operative housing in Wales is great and there are several different models being explored which meet different needs."

At present, there are 836 co-operative and mutual housing societies registered in the UK - but just 3% of those are in Wales.

Dave Palmer, project manager of the Welsh government funded Co-operative Housing Project within the Wales Co-operative Centre, said it was clear that schemes in Wales "are at an early stage in development".

"But the pioneer projects that we are working with are getting ready to deliver a number of co-operative homes," he said.

The report, which is being presented at the Co-operative Congress in Cardiff on Saturday, says there are already 10 potential schemes in the pipeline, including a 50-home site in Cardiff, an estate redevelopment in Newport, an expansion of a community land trust at Rhyl in Denbighshire, and even an artistic community housing project in the Vale of Glamorgan.

"The Wales Co-operative Centre and Welsh government are keen to continue supporting and encouraging this positive start, by empowering the pioneers to deliver these much needed homes," Mr Palmer added.

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