In June the Co-operative News informed readers that the UK Co-operative Economy 2016 report records – in eye-catching graphics – that around 17.5 million people are now owners of the country’s 7,000 independent co-op organisations – up from 17.4 million the previous year, and showing an increase of 1.3 million over the past five years. The report, published by Co-operatives UK, finds that the sector supports 223,000 jobs and is worth £34bn a year to the economy, showing resilience in the midst of wider economic uncertainty. Despite a slight dip on last year’s figures, the sector has seen a £3.5bn (or 10%) increase in turnover during the last five years.
An earlier article in the News recorded the finding of the 2004 official review of housing supply, that Britain needed to build 250,000 houses a year and a couple of questions were asked at the annual conference of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH), Loughborough University:
- Can co-operative housing help solve Britain’s housing crisis?
- And, if so, what can be done to encourage the development of more housing co-ops?
Claire McCarthy, general secretary of the Co-operative Party, gave the example of Wales, where the previous Labour government legislated to enable mutual housing associations to grant assured tenancies:
“New build co-operative housing schemes have been completed which are not only providing affordable rents for local families but have also provided high quality apprenticeship opportunities and training for tenants in managing their homes within a co-operative structure. “In addition, Merthyr Valley Homes has become the largest housing mutual in Wales and only the second mutual housing association (the other is Rochdale Boroughwide Housing – above centre) to be owned by both residents and staff. Recent developments, particularly in student housing co-ops, are also providing inspiration for what is possible . . .
“Government ministers have re-stated their commitment to co-operative housing and committed to examining the progress in Wales to see if lessons can be learned in England. This provides us with a good opportunity for the future . . .
“Challenging failing markets is what co-operation is all about. Our housing market is failing a growing number of people and we can and must be part of the solution,” she concluded.