Turning Tenants into Landlords


Nov 2000

Co-operative housing opportunities
Book Review  
'The Third Estate' written by David Rodgers is the second in a series of discussion  documents published by the Co-operative Party as part of its New Mutualism initiative.  This one is about Co-operative Housing.  David Rodgers is the Executive Director of CDS Co-operatives which is one of the largest co-operative housing service agencies in the south of  England and serves as clerk to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing Co-operatives.  In his pamphlet, he takes a wide ranging view of the history and philosophy of mutualism and how its principles can  be applied to housing today.  How have governments dealt with social housing over the last hundred years?  What has been the status of the tenant?.  Historically, the system of tenure in this country stems from the feudal notion of landlord and tenant: i.e. a tenant is subservient to his landlord.  This is still the legal status of all tenants today: council tenants included.  This was often reflected in many councilsí paternalistic management style.  The 1970s brought tenant participation.  By the1980s, councils started to encourage tenant management organisations.  A sprinkling of tenant management co-ops followed.  Very few, if any, developed into fully mutual housing co-ops.  

The Third Estate

Accountability remained with the local councillor. Housing association management was often paternalistic too.  Housing associations mushroomed under the Tories. But rent rises meant that the only people on benefit could live in them.  This increased social exclusion.  Social housing should be moved from feudal dependency to mutual control. Some councillors oppose mutualisation fearing that it will lead to privatisation.  But the tenants wishes should prevail here.  Maybe councillors would be better employed in dealing with overall housing strategy and leave the running of social housing to  the people who actually live here!  The commonest forms of tenure are owner occupation or rent/leasehold.  In housing  co-ops, the tenant is also the landlord. Rodgers feels that the law should be changed to recognise this Third Estate.  The co-op housing sector is still very small.  A new legal status for housing co-ops should be introduced and the restrictions which have hampered their growth removed.  This pamphlet is a must for anyone interested in the radical reform of social housing.

This article was published in the CHARTIST

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