Co-operatives and mutual housing in the social rented sector

Briefing Paper 17

‘If the Rochdale pioneers were alive today they’d be building housing co-ops’. This paper draws on the history and principles of the co-operative movement and outlines a variety of models of co-operative and mutual housing. It distinguishes three phases of co-operative housing development in England: co-partnership housing, co-ownership and common ownership and tenant management. In the most recent phase, it identifies innovations associated with community gateway models for housing transfer from local authorities, community land trusts and mutual home ownership models.

The research highlights the strong fit of co-operative housing to current political policy and outlines the distinctive contribution that co-operatives can make as third sector organisations. It demonstrates evidence of effective management performance and high levels of resident satisfaction, especially satisfaction with participation, and provides further case study evidence of added value. It explores the internal and external barriers that have inhibited the development of the sector and puts forward some critical success factors for the future; notably commitment to principles of mutualism and the development of support and funding structures. Some new funding models, particularly for mutual home ownership, are discussed. Further research is proposed in relation to secondary support, the role of membership, new forms of co-operation including the injection of elements of mutualism into larger housing sector organisations. The Rochdale pioneers would not be waiting for Government policy to introduce such innovations.


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