Last Wednesday, co-operators gathered in Westminster to discuss Labour & Co-operative MP Jonathan Reynolds’ private members bill on Co-op housing tenure, reports Daniel Carey-Dawes.

Activists and supporters were joined by Labour & Co-op MPs last week in a packed committee room to debate the bill and how best to establish the mutual housing model.

The Co-operative Housing (Tenure) Bill would bring Britain up to date with the rest of Europe in legally recognising the co-operative ownership of a dwelling. Currently there are only two forms of legally recognised ownership: that of a freeholder or a leaseholder. This narrow conception of ownership, dating back to feudal times when people either owned the land (such as the Crown) or simply rented it from a superior (feudal) landlord, is making the current housing crisis worse and preventing the construction of millions of co-operatively owned homes. Under the bill, communities could come together to develop affordable and sustainable housing, knowing that they had the full backing of the law behind them.

The panel included Jack Dromey, Labour’s shadow spokesman on housing, Labour & Co-operative MP Meg Hillier and David Rodgers of CDS Co-operatives. Nicky Gavron AM, Labour’s lead on housing in the London Assembly, sent a statement giving full support to the Bill. She affirmed that it is radical thinking and progressive mutual solutions such as this that will be crucial to Labour winning in London in 2012 and will form part of the new administration’s housing agenda.

Addressing the meeting, Jack Dromey gave his full backing to the bill declaring that “Co-op housing will be a central plank of Labour’s housing policies in the next manifesto”. Arguing that coalition policy has nothing to offer those struggling to get their foot on the housing ladder, he praised the innovative proposals as a big part of the future of housing policy in the UK.

Meg Hillier described how mutual housing schemes could benefit her constituents in Hackney South and Shoreditch. She described how the lack of choice in housing tenure significantly restricts the options open to those seeking affordable, sustainable and well-constructed homes. David Rodgers, a leading campaigner in this area, highlighted how behind Britain was in addressing this issue, given that Sweden introduced legislation in 1920. It is no surprise, therefore, that across Sweden co-op housing accounts for 18% of all homes, compared to just 0.6% in the UK.

Following a lively audience discussion, Co-operative Party General Secretary Michael Stephenson thanked the panel and audience and noted that mutual approaches in Wales and Leeds along with Jonathan Reynolds’ bill were historic opportunities to change the nature of housing tenure in the UK.

To find out how you can support the Bill and the HomeShares campaign for mutual housing in your community click here.