Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Edward Henry House Co-operative

1.0 Purpose of This Submission

1.1 This submission forwards the views of Edward Henry House Co-operative to the Public Bill Committee regarding the Housing and Planning Bill.

2.0 Summary

2.1 Edward Henry House Co-operative is a self-managed, independent co-operative of 69 homes in Waterloo, London SE1. We have been running ourselves successfully for over 35 years.

2.2 Our properties are in better condition than those of Lambeth Council and surrounding Housing Associations. Being self-run, our rents are also lower. Our rent arrears are extremely low. We receive no ongoing subsidies (though a few of our members do rely on Housing Benefit) yet through careful stewardship we have an adequate reserve.

2.3 We home key workers, school workers, shift workers, transport workers, trades people and others who make up London's essential workforce. We home people in need from the Lambeth Council waiting list. We provide homes adapted for families requiring disability assistance.

2.4 We argue that Pay-To-Stay and Right-To-Buy will be the demise of our community.

3.0 The End Of Our Housing Co-operative

3.1 Co-operative living is a commitment, not a temporary measure. Our tenant members run all aspects of our co-operative ourselves. We have an Executive Committee, regular General Meetings and numerous Working Group Meetings (finance, maintenance, etc.).

3.2 We succeed because we have members with decades of experience. We succeed because skills are learnt and passed on over years.

3.3 Pay-To-Stay will cause many capable, middle income tenants to move away. This resulting exodus, and an everlasting high turnover of residents as new tenants rise above the threshold, will result in a lack of experienced members. Our co-operative will cease to be able to function. It will be the end of our housing co-operative.

3.4 Right-To-Buy will also erode our ability to function. Local experience shows that many Right-To-Buy properties end up in the hands of buy-to-let landlords. Owner occupiers and renters will not have the experience nor inclination to be co-operative.

4.0 Housing Benefit Claims and a Disincentive To Work

4.1 The high rents in central London means Pay-To-Stay will see our tenant members’ rents sky rocket. This will drive people out of their homes, create a rush of new massive Housing Benefit claims and in many circumstances it is a disincentive to work.

4.2 One example from our co-operative is a working couple in a one bedroom flat. One working at a local school earning £33,240pa and the other running a small local shop earning c. £8,000pa. With Pay-To-Stay this couple will be eligible for approx. £725pm Housing Benefit. However, even accounting for any Housing Benefit claim, they would still be financially better off by approx. £450pm if the lower income simply chose to close her business and cease working.

4.3 Another family from our co-operative has two adults working in education (earning £24,695 and £21,100) with one of their two children still living in their three bedroom flat. With Pay-To-Stay this family would see their monthly take home half and able to claim approx. £688pm Housing Benefit.

4.4 Another example is a family of two working adults (earning £30,200 and £10,770) with two children in a three bedroom flat. With Pay-To-Stay this family would be able to claim approx. £966pm Housing Benefit. However, they would be better off by approx. £115pm if the lower income earner stopped working.

5.0 An Attack on Freedom And Fundamental Property Rights

5.1 As a Fully Mutual housing co-operative we own, through share allocation, the freehold of our property. We choose to pass this on to subsequent generations of co-operative members.

5.2 It is not the government’s place to tell property owners what to do with their own properties. The Government forcing us to sell, and telling us how much to charge, undermines basic freedoms and principles of ownership.

6.0 Cause Tensions In Our Community

6.1 We are a happy, functioning, self-reliant community. We epitomise the big society. Pay-To-Stay will cause tensions with some members paying more for exactly the same services.

6.2 Pay-To-Stay will cause tensions with some members, on the Finance Working Group for example, being seen as policing the finances of others.

6.3 Right-To-Buy undermines the fundamental principles of our community. Owner-occupiers and renters will not be inclined to be co-operative. Yet they will benefit from services others, the members tenants, work hard to provide. This will inevitably cause tension and conflict.

7.0 Administration will be impossibly difficult

7.1 Administrating Pay-To-Stay and Right-To-Buy will be a near impossible demand upon our self-managed community. Inevitably we would need to look at outsourcing much of this work which will further add to the demise of the fabric of co-operative living. It will also be a drain on any money raised from Pay-To-Stay resulting in a minimal gain towards development.

8.0 Suggested Amendments

8.1 We strongly urge Housing Co-operatives be exempted from the Pay-To-Stay and Right-To-Buy provisions of the Housing And Planning Bill because, for the reasons given in this submission, these both would destroy the ethos and effective working arrangements on which our co-op is successfully built to the extent that our housing co-operative could not survive.

November 2015

Prepared 17th November 2015