Adopting a ‘top down meets bottom up’ approach to develop co-operative housing in England – Redditch Borough Council

Posted on 10th November, 2017

Redditch is a former new town in the West Midlands.  Within commuting distance of Birmingham, it combines areas of affluence with pockets of deprivation and unemployment.

With a long tradition of successfully managed council housing, Redditch Borough Council’s (RBC’s) preferred option had always been to provide social housing through its own housing stock.  As that option ceased to be viable, about 800 homes were built in the borough by housing associations in the 1990s.  However, with none of those associations providing local service delivery, the Council ran a competition in 1998 to recruit a housing association partner that would offer higher levels of local democratic accountability through locally provided services and a local office base.

The Council chose Accord Housing, a Black Country based housing association with a subsidiary partner – Birmingham Co-operative Housing Services (BCHS) – which provides services to West Midlands housing co-operatives.  Accord brought their development expertise and their financing capacity alongside the skills and knowledge to develop co-operative housing groups from BCHS.

Five local neighbourhood housing co-operatives have since been developed in Redditch managing nearly 500 homes between them.  Initially benefitting from competitively priced local authority land, developing the co-ops demonstrated that it was possible to develop community-led housing where there was no pre-existing interest or knowledge of co-operative housing in the local population.  With all member residents nominated to their homes by the Council, initially half were pre-allocated to enable development of the co-operative housing groups during the scheme development period, supported by Accord through BCHS, an approach replicated when further new schemes were initiated.  This meant that the fledgling co-ops were able to input into scheme design and to customise individual homes.  Once the co-ops have been initially established, the Council uses a more conventional approach to its nominations to the co-op.

The co-ops have recurring seven year leases with Accord, enabling them to issue tenancies to their member tenants. They have management arrangements with Accord to provide services to them through a local office in the borough.  Initially all of the co-ops’ homes were socially rented, but the flexibility of the model has subsequently enabled the development of some shared ownership homes in some co-ops.

With more than half of the members involved in each of the co-ops, the Redditch approach has generated considerable benefits.  Service provision statistics compare favourably against local benchmarks, and satisfaction statistics are high (an average of 93.5%).  However, more importantly the Redditch co-ops have been about developing supportive local communities, particularly in Breedon Co-op’s schemes for the over 60s.  For the younger residents, the Redditch co-ops have enabled them to build their skills and confidence, with several younger members finding work as a result of their co-op membership.

Full Case Study: Redditch_clh