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A housing alternative

It’s not just about housing – it’s about people making homes, says David Palmer as he looks to the future of the Welsh co-operative housing programme.

Here in Wales we are fortunate that community-led housing is supported by Welsh Government, and we have recently had further funding from The Nationwide Foundation to use consultants to support co-operative responses for the provision of affordable housing across Wales.

Winston Churchill said ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.’

Nowhere is this more relevant than in co-operative homes, where the community is built whilst the homes are being built, and then the co-operative manages and maintains the homes, thereby sustaining their community.

Anne Power, professor at the London School of Economics, described the management of housing (council) in the 80s as ‘property before people’. Here in Wales I would like to think we have moved on from this with ‘system stewardship’ where we are putting people and communities at the heart of everything we do.

What I have witnessed over the last two years as project manager of the Welsh co-operative housing programme is that the people and communities of Wales have grasped with enthusiasm the opportunity for co-operative housing. Many were previously not aware of this alternative housing option but they have quickly understood what’s on offer – the chance to develop ready-made communities, to take responsibility for their homes and to steward their neighbourhoods for future generations in ways that has not happened before in Wales.

David Palmer of The Wales Co-operative Centre pictured at the Loftus Garden Village development in Newport © Roger Donovan, Media Photos

David Palmer of The Wales Co-operative Centre pictured at the Loftus Garden Village development in Newport
© Roger Donovan, Media Photos

The housing co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, and their founder co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice. And no more so than by Co-operation among Co-operatives, where co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

The training we deliver at the Wales Co-operative Centre enables people to set up and manage a housing co-operative themselves. This is achieved with support from partner organisations – housing associations and local authorities, and a range of consultants, notably Confederation of Co-operative Housing. This is being encouraged and fostered in Wales through the Welsh Government stakeholder group and across the UK via facebook.com/groups/CommunityLedHousing. See also https://www.facebook.com/CommunityLedHousingMatters.

The continuation of funding from the Nationwide Foundation is critical for us to build on the excellent progress that has already been made, with 40 co-operative housing groups to be established over the next three years.

The Welsh Co-operative Housing programme has shown us that co-operative housing is flexible to meet many needs and any tenure. We want to ensure that co-operative housing provides a significant proportion of the new 20,000 new homes to be built during this Welsh Government term.

David Palmer is co-operative housing project manager at the Wales Co-operative Centre. For further information on the Welsh co-operative housing programme, visit wales.coop/coop-housing/

The Nationwide Foundation is giving additional funding of £130,000 to the Wales Co-operative Centre, which it will use to significantly increase the number of housing co-operatives and affordable housing options across Wales. This funding will support 40 co-operative groups as they become established over the next three years.

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