Aerial view of St Mellons Town in Cardiff, Wales UK

In other parts of the World, up to third of housing tenures are formed of housing co-operatives – but the UK is lagging seriously behind. In Sweden, for example, two large co-operative housing organisations provide over 750,000 homes – which equates to around 18% of the population living in co-operative housing.  In Canada, which began developing housing co-operatives in the early 1970s, there are now over 400,000 living in co-operative homes. To put Britain’s lack of co-operative housing in perspective, there are more co-operative housing homes in Vancouver than the whole of Great Britain.

A previous Housing Minister Huw Lewis said, “I want to create a new housing sector in Wales, no less, and make us the first of the home nations to pilot and develop housing based on the Co-operative Party’s New Foundations model.”  This works by separating the value of land from the purchase price of properties built on it through the means of a community land trust (CLT). Unlike traditional home ownership, homes built on the CLT are financed by a corporate loan borrowed by a co-operative. Residents make monthly payments based upon an affordable percentage of their monthly income – with the ability to increase or decrease according to their current circumstances, so that payments could be reduced if, for example, a resident became unemployed. By offering investors safe guaranteed yield investments, an added advantage of New Foundations is its potential to attract institutional investors such as pension funds to invest cash back into the Welsh economy.

In 2012, Huw Lewis announced that he wanted to see homes built in Wales using a co-operative framework. From there, the Wales Co-operative Housing Project was born, managed by the Wales Co-operative Centre and funded by the Welsh Government and Nationwide Foundation. Over the past 6 years, the Wales Co-operative Centre has helped organisations and communities in Wales to develop 137 co-operative homes and communities.

In 2017, the Welsh Government provided Wales Co-operative Centre with almost £150,000 to support the Co-operative Housing in Wales project. The Co-operative Housing in Wales project aims to:

  • Assist the progress of developing co-operative housing schemes in Wales;
  • Support the development of a variety of different housing co-operative models; and
  • Improve the skills and expertise of the members of co-operative housing schemes in Wales to ensure their sustainability.

Developments have taken place across Wales and so far include:

  • Home Farm Village Housing Co-op, providing 41 affordable rented homes next to the Ely River in Cardiff developed with Cadwyn Housing.
  • Loftus Gardens Co-op, which has 20 shared ownership homes with a shared common space and garden on the Loftus Gardens estate in Newport developed by the Seren Group.
  • West Rhyl Community Land Trust, which is a community co-op set up to regenerate West Rhyl, transforming former houses in multiple occupation into family homes managed co-operatively.

The CCH is working with the Welsh Government and the Wales Co-operative Centre to develop new co-operative homes.

I believe that this is an area which desperately needs to be expanded in order to increase the number of houses available in Wales. A start has been made, but we now need to see support for an expansion of co-operative housing. We have seen small-scale development, but now we need to see it increased. With the shortage of affordable housing in Wales, we cannot afford to not take every possible opportunity to increase the number of properties available.