Housing Co-operative Referendum? Why You Should Vote Yes.

Nottingham’s Students’ Union is currently running a referendum to decide whether they should support the development of a Student Housing Co-operative. Scott Jennings, a key member of that process, explains why you should vote yes. 

What is a Housing Co-operative?

A student housing co-operative provides not-for-profit student housing that is run in the democratic interests of its residents. In a housing co-op the residents are also the owners; each person buys a share in the co-op when they join, usually for a nominal fee of around one pound. The rent paid then goes directly towards paying bills, mortgages and reinvestment into the housing, rather than providing profit for a private landlord.

Under a student housing co-operative there would be:
1. No private landlord – in essence you become your own landlord.
2. Below Market Average Rents – because nobody is making a profit all money is reinvested and rents are collectively set by the co-operative.
3. A good standard of housing, not at a premium – you live in the housing, you will want it to be nice, the co-operative can upgrade, update and repair things, unlike waiting for landlords – who may never fix anything.

Too good to be true? That’s the thing, it isn’t.

Student Housing Co-operatives have existed with success across the globe. Successful student co-operatives have been operating in the US, Canada, Australia and even in the UK.

In the UK the first Large Scale Student Housing Co-operative was founded and opened its doors in 2014 in Edinburgh, providing 106 beds of student accommodation. In their own words, “we were fed up with extortionate rent, exploitative landlords, dodgy letting agencies, and substandard housing. We wanted to increase the amount of affordable housing for students”. Other Student Housing Co-operatives exist in Birmingham and Sheffield with interest for more being created around the country.

Is there any mandate or support for a Student Housing Co-operative in Nottingham already?

I ran for Community Officer with this proposal and was runner up losing by only 75 votes. Many students backed this idea and engaged with it during my campaign, especially when they heard about the other successful UK student housing co-operatives.

Further to this, former officers of the Students’ Union are actively engaged in the initiative such as Matt Styles, our former Education Officer.

Do we need one in Nottingham?

Nottingham housing is of a very poor standard with only approximate 30 percent of housing considered satisfactory or above from Students’ Union research. The major issues being the state of disrepair of housing, exploitative landlords, cold and poorly insulated houses, and pests. Collectively these indicators suggest a low quality of housing, which can lead to poor health among student populations.

Will it benefit all students not just those who live in the co-operative?

The housing co-operative will benefit all students by leading the way on affordable, secure, high quality and warm housing. The co-operative would be an effective form of student led intervention in the housing market, raising the standards across private rental accommodation by creating genuine competition with existing private landlords.

What work has happened already on a Nottingham Student Housing Co-operative?

I, along with current students and graduates, have been working on the co-operative initiative for over a year, collaborating with Students For Co-operation, a federation of student run co-operatives. Together we have been building a National Body of Student Housing Co-operatives to raise finance and purchase housing with an extensive first stage plan created independently by experts. The plan put forward by the National Body recommends that Nottingham would be a prime location to invest and that within the first wave of house buying four properties should be acquired very quickly with more to follow.

In addition, we have worked locally on a business plan to allow a local co-operative, once having raised initial investment, to purchase our own houses alongside the National Body to help grow the co-operative even faster.

A Student Housing Co-operative is not an unrealistic chimera, they already exist and they work. These co-operatives perform a service to students and provide high quality affordable housing. With student dense areas in a poor state with quality of housing, now is the time for the Students’ Union to back a direct Student intervention to make the student experience better for all.

Voting closes at 15:00 on the 2nd of November. Find the referendum here.

Scott Jennings

Image: Sluge G via Flickr

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