Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Miller Walk Housing Co-operative Ltd. (HPB 51)

1.0 SUMMARY

1.1 This submission forwards the views of Miller Walk Housing Co-operative Limited in the Waterloo area of London SE1.

1.2 Miller Walk Housing Co-operative is an independent co-operative consisting of 13 houses, including 2 disabled bungalows. As a fully mutual cooperative, we have been successfully conducting the management of our estate for over 25 years.

1.3 We are proud to say our properties are kept in excellent condition both inside and outside. Safety and satisfaction of our tenants is at a high level. This, considering our rents are low and all costs including: payments of mortgage; repairs; legal costs; purchase & safety of boilers; gardening; auditors; voids; maintenance of walkway and parking spaces are all paid from our rents. Through due diligence we have adequate reserves.

2.0 CO-OPERATIVE MANAGEMENT

2.1 Our Management Committee is made up of people both in full time employment and retirement. We rely on this Committee - members (tenants) of the co-operative who voluntarily give their valuable time for meetings, and have the skills to conduct financial, maintenance based and day to day running of our properties.

3.0 RIGHT TO BUY – PAY TO STAY

3.1 We consider that Right to Buy and Pay to Stay would seriously disrupt the successful management of our Community. The management, for example, would be seen to be policing the finance of some tenants, which would lead to high levels of friction and conflict.

3.2 Should the Pay to Stay proposals take into consideration the income of the two highest earners within a household, regardless of whether they are on the tenancy or not, then we shall see families in our co-operative being split up. For example, co-operative residents living at house X consist of a 5 person family, the Mother and Father of this family are partners and both tenants. One being in full time employment, the other is retired due to ill-health. Currently they would be under the proposed London Pay to Stay threshold. However, their eldest child has recently graduated from University and is looking to move from part time to full time employment; achieving this goal would, however, push them over the threshold and force them to pay unaffordable rents. Furthermore, the opportunity for young people to move out of their households into residences of their own in the local or surrounding areas is both a distant and narrow chance. Waiting lists for local council properties are years long and private rents throughout London are extortionate - this leaves very little opportunity for deposit saving, and hopes of buying a starter home seem impossible.

3.3 Another example is a 1 child family in a 1 bedroom flat, with the Mother and Father both in full time employment with joint earnings being over the threshold. Should the Pay to Stay be enforced, the family would be unable to move to a larger more suitable property (ie transfer within the Co-operative community) or to save any money towards a deposit for a home - effectively forcing the lowest earner in the household to cease working in order to fall under the threshold.

3.4 Local experience shows that Right to Buy properties usually end up in the hands of Buy to Let landlords, whose tenants will not have the experience or inclination to uphold the Co-operative Principles. Our experience of co-operative living (upholding the co-operative principles) are extremely important.

4.0 DISTINCTION BETWEEN CO-OPERATIVES AND HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

4.1 It would appear that no thought has been given to the large difference between Housing Associations and Co-operatives. As a co-operative, we own the freehold of our properties with all the tenants equally through share allocation, which would be continued on to any future tenants.

4.2 Due to the work tenants personally put in towards the successful running of the co-operative, it would be completely unfair and untrue to label us under the same heading as a Housing Association.

4.3 It seems that Co-operatives have been included in this Housing Bill by sheer oversight - there are overwhelming factors to show that they should be exempt from this, as highlighted above, where very clear distinctions between Co-operatives and Housing Associations have been proven.

5.0 SUGGESTED AMENDMENT TO THE BILL

5.1 It is the opinion of Miller Walk Housing Co-operative that this Bill has not considered the huge gap between Co-operative Living and Housing Association Organisations and would submit that Co-operative Housing be exempt from Right to Buy and Pay to Stay Housing & Planning Bill.

November 2015

Prepared 17th November 2015