The threat to Co-op's
What are Housing Co-op's?
Housing Co-Ops are self- managed communities, agents to the landlord. Our emphasis is on community and our aim is to sustain it and preserve its unique nature. We receive an allowance from the landlord (NHH), in return of which we pay a lump-sum rent at the beginning of the month and then collect it from the residents. We keep our accounts and are responsible for procedures to do with arrears (including evictions, which our Co-Op is doing all it can to avoid); allocations; neighbourhood disputes and general management of our spaces. (Unfortunately – our Co-op has been refused control over our repairs and we have to contend with an inadequate level of services..) We do much of the work for the landlord and we believe we are very cost effective to them - we save them money and hassle.
Deliberate Community Erosion
In short – I painted a picture of Community, which it seems NHH has lost sight of. In the present merger consultations, they ignored our existence and the specific issues of sustaining a community. With the (un)affordable rent and fixed-term tenancies, an inequality is established whereby next door neighbours find themselves paying totally different levels of rent. This creates resentments and unease. Fixed term tenancies remove any security of permanent housing, creating a reluctance to contribute to the group – as they don’t know how long they would be a part of it.
Eradication of our Housing Stock
And – in comes the big bombshell - the right to buy. What is the point of fighting for the right to allocations, when in time people will sell their bought leased homes (for huge profit, I’m sure) and we’ll have no control over who joins the group – which tries to keep its identity, and culture. With the obvious ‘metamorphosis’ of Housing Associations becoming property developers (and NHH and Genesis pretty much lead the way), it looks like the road is paved for the erosion of communities.
What we are fighting for
I am aware of the fact that communities are being formed not just as Co-Ops, but the autonomy of the Co-Op is what makes it different. The benefits of living in a community are ample: Support on mental health and well-being; Safety and security; Neighbourly help; Shared child care; A culture of giving back to the community. We give our children a good model of living communally, considering others – not just ourselves.
Whereas The CEO of NHH, Kate Davies suggested, in her patronising way, that ‘People in Estates need to learn social skills’ – we are a true example of second and third generation living together in what feels like an extended family (not without its occasional disagreements etc.. Naturally..). The growing attitude of NHH is of disregard to our ethos and causing divisions within us.
After being vocal enough, we are now offered a one-off consultation with other Co-ops . We are an example of ‘small is manageable’ but we are fighting giants, which threaten to become even bigger and less concerned with the good of the ‘small’.
Here's to forty years more
The Independent Republic of Frestonia (which is us, the’ Bramleys family’) has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. We are still here to tell the tale of small communities and we are hoping to be here for much longer.
Shelley, Bramleys Housing Co-op