48 page report drafted showing possibility for a National Body of Student Housing Co-operatives which would enable the quick growth of student housing co-operatives across the U.K. The national body would support a generation of student co-operators by providing a long lasting infrastructure for students involved in social change and community projects.
The need for affordable democratic housing remains strong as ever. With rising rental costs for students across the U.K and bad management by university accommodation services, students need to taking housing into their own hands. That is exactly what has happened in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield where collectively over 120 students self managing their co-operatives housing with fantastic results. The creation of these housing co-operatives has shown this type of student self management is possible, and in face more cost effective than private rental or university halls.
However it is not without it’s problems, whilst three students co-ops is a large achievement there is a real need to expand the network and begin acquiring properties. Owning properties will allow the network to build up the capital needed to buy larger properties and expand to different cities where there are groups of students keen to set up housing co-ops to change their local housing conditions. Currently Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh have commercial leases on their properties with supportive organisations, the Phone Co-op and Edinvar Castle Rock and although this model has worked in some situations Students For Co-operation is keen to support a model which will allow student housing co-ops to be started wherever in the country there are students keen and dedicated to a project. Having supportive partner organisations should not be a necessity for what is a very feasible business model.
To this end, at the end of last year, the network commissioned a report by Acorn Co-operative Support on the Feasibility of a National Body of Student Housing Co-operatives which would tackle these key problems facing the creation of new student housing co-operatives:
• Limited access to finance
• Lack of experience of co-ops, business management and property purchasing
• High turnover of membership, with associated problems of continuity
• Lack of support
• No specific student co-operative rules
• No co-operative specific student tenancy agreements
• The affordability of new housing co-ops.
The resulting report which was created in consultation with existing student co-operatives, prospective co-operative groups, housing co-operative support organisations, supportive organisers and potential lending institutions gave a positive prospectus for the feasibility of this plan. The proposed body – the National Body of Student Housing Co-operatives would be formed as a secondary co-operative made up of student housing co-ops themselves. It would access finance to purchase property freeholds, have equity from existing co-operatives and support from experienced co-operators sitting on its board of directors.
The 48 page plan, whilst is feasible only with £20k of initial seed funding to cover costs necessary to get the businesses up and running and in a position to receive the investment to purchase it’s first properties. This funding would cover the legal work associated with drafting new lease and tenancy agreements creating the rules for the business and incorporating. It would additionally cover the costs of a network co-ordinator who would support the existing and prospective co-operatives involved who will be looking at houses to purchases and doing the paperwork associated with the setting up the businesses. This grant funding would enable us access to over £1million of investment in the planned first round of house purchasing which lenders indicated would be available given the strengths of our plans. Although 20k sounds like a lot to be asking for within 7 years the student co-operative network could be purchasing the multimillion pound Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative along with many other properties in many different cities! A good goal to aim at.