Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by Heathview Housing Cooperative (HPB 76)

1.0 Purpose Of This Submission

1.1 This submission is to express the opinion of Heathview Housing Co-operative

regarding the Housing and Planning Bill.

2.0 Summary

2.1 Heathiew Housing Co-operative is a fully mutual Housing Cooperative based in North London (Gordon House Road London NW5). Heathview Tenants’ Association was established in 1970 and we became a fully mutual Housing Cooperative in 1977.

2.2 Heathview is comprised of one apartment block of 55 apartments and two Victorian terraces each divided into two flats – 59 units in total.

2.3 Because we run Heathview ourselves we are very efficient. Our homes are well looked after and tenants always get a speedy reponse. Our rents are fair and our arrears are very low.

2.4 We house people from the Camden Council waiting list who support our cooperative principles. We also provide housing to people who are providing essential services to London but would otherwise be unable to afford living here.

3.0 Conflict with the principles and ethos of Cooperative Life

3.1 Co-operatives offer a different way of living in the community. We look after each other, and manage our own affairs through our Management Committee and Working Groups. We are a community that is mixed in terms of age, gender and income which means we are able to support each other and form a strong sense of community. We are also an integral part of our wider community and have built strong relationships with local schools, nature reserves, shops and businesses.

3.2 Co-operatives are only able to offer low rents because we do all the work ourselves. We cannot provide accommodation for people who wish buy their own properties because we rely on ALL properties providing rent and ALL tenants contributing to the running of the cooperative.

3.3. Pay to Stay is divisive. It will cause some of our most valued members to leave because they will no longer be able to afford to live in the cooperative. We will be left with an inbalance in our community having more vulnerable people to look after but less qualified people to help out.

4.0 Cooperatives are the answer to the Housing Crisis in London and should be protected at all costs

4.1 London is currently experiencing a Housing Crisis. Even a reasonable income does not enable you to buy a property. Cooperatives provide an essential service in this regard, housing people who would otherwise be forced to move out of London.

4.2 Co-operatives save local councils a huge amount of money. For all of our tenants on Housing Benefit our rents are reasonable. If these tenants were to live in the same area using

4.3 Heathview and other Housing Cooperatives are the most efficient and organized way of providing housing in London. Our costs are significantly lower than Housing Associations and Local Authorities because we do the work ourselves and therefore do not have to spend vast amounts on staff and other costs. We should be protected from these changes in order for us to continue to provide such impressive value of money.

5.0 Fully Mutual Housing Cooperatives should be exempt from RTB and PTS

5.1. We are fully mutual. We own our Co-ops. We run things ourselves. As such it should be our decision to determine our rent. We already have regulations in place prohibiting Right to Buy. Moreover we should be allowed to set our rents based on our costs, maintenance requirements and plans for improvements. We are there to serve our tenants, not property speculators.

5.2 Many members have lived with us all their lives. The ability to create, foster and nurture such important communities in London is invaluable. We have already paid for our properties in this sense, so do not need any opportunity to either pay more based on income, or buy our properties. We choose to pass on our right to rent and live cooperatively in London to future tenants.

5.3 We believe therefore that the inclusion of cooperatives into the proposed Bill is a mistake and contravenes previous legislation that allowed us to establish ourselves in the first place.

5.4 As stated in 3.3 Pay to Stay will divide our members and contravenes the cooperative nature of all cooperatives. We are all expected to contribute to maintaining our cooperative regardless of income. If PTS were introduced, this important principle would be eroded; we would lose valuable members; other members would have to think twice if their career developed as it should; we would effectively be deskilled and lose our diversity.

5.5 Pay to Stay would be particularly detrimental to gender equality and be disadvantageous to women members of the Cooperative. It could put pressure on women who are part of a couple (particularly those with children) to leave work in order to stay below the threshold.

5.6 If couples with two incomes are priced out of our cooperative, it might also mean the important balance between single and two parent families will be upset.

6.0 Suggested Amendments

6.1 We strongly urge that instead of threatening the existence of Housing Cooperatives by including us in this plan, the Housing Consultation explores the option of expanding the incredibly successful and efficient model of cooperative housing in London as part of a housing policy that is aimed at solving the current housing crisis.

November 2015

Prepared 24th November 2015