Taking more control over your housing

Guest blog by Andrea Jones, Project Manager/Researcher/housing activist

The cost of renting a home takes up a big chunk of most people’s income. Sharing with friends is often seen as the best way of making housing more affordable, but it can also be a way of taking more control of your housing. A group of people can rent or buy a place to live in ways that individuals or couples can’t. Here’s a couple of examples that I’ve learnt about through doing some research on this.

Housing Co-operatives. These are a long-established way are groups of people getting together and forming a Co-op to buy or lease a home. Co-ops can get mortgages and take on long-term leases (instead of short-term tenancies) because lenders are lending to an organisation, not individuals. As an organisation, of course, you don’t end up owning your house individually and there is work involved: you have to have a constitution and regular meetings and, in order to get a mortgage, you still have to persuade the lender that the mortgage can be repaid by the members of the Co-op. In effect, you become both landlord and tenant! There’s lots of support around in Brighton to help you do these things and there’s existing housing Co-op’s doing just this – http://chibah.org/. The average cost of a room in a housing Co-op in Brighton Hove is around £350 per room plus bills, so they are a great way of making your housing more affordable.

CoHousing groups. CoHousing groups are often intergenerational groups of people who want to share certain common facilities together, but keep more of their own private space. They are a bit like mini villages, where the neighbours are really supportive of each other and meet regularly to share food and make decisions, but individual households have their own front door. Because this way of living is new, getting involved in a CoHousing group is often more long-term way of taking control of your own housing. They often mix ownership and renting and often rely on having older members with financial capital to invest in the community, to enable younger members to live affordably in their community. You can find out more about local CoHousing groups through the UK CoHousing Network or Sussex CoHousing http://www.sussexcohousing.org.uk/

Self-build groups. Self-build is the ultimate way to take control of not just where you live, but the building process itself. For people without financial capital, one way to do this is by joining, or setting up, a self-build Housing Co-operative. Bunker Housing Co-op is an example of this in Brighton https://www.facebook.com/bunkerbuild/. The members of Bunker are all registered on Brighton and Hove Council’s housing list and so they have been offered a lease on some land in Brighton to build two three-bedroom properties for their members during 2017.

Follow the links in this post if you want to find out more, or take a look at my blog: www.livingwithfriends.org.


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