Lessons can be learned from local housing co-operative

by Hannah Chillman

Catfish Housing Co-operative Ltd is one of many housing co-operatives, and at present the only cooperative in Huddersfield. They are a non-profit organisation run for and by their members. Each co-op is owned and controlled by the members who are responsible for its finances, activities and day to day running. 

2018 was the year Catfish bought their first house, four years after they had their first meeting and registered as a co-op.

Catfish member Ruairidh gave us a glimpse into why Catfish was established;

“We were private renting for a few years and we got evicted through no fault of our own.  Three or four times we were evicted, and we couldn’t afford to buy a place, so when we found out about Lifespan Community Collective (housing co-op), there was no risk of getting evicted. This takes the power away from the landlord, and puts control and security back into the tenants’ hands”.

Catfish is amongst a network of radical co-ops where members are committed to working towards social change. The network supports co-operatives that are opposed to the destruction of the environment, committed to a positive ecological outlook, and support grassroots resistance to injustice.

If you’re wondering what a co-op house looks like, Ruairidh gave us an insight, saying ’‘There’s lots of separate rooms, so each person can have their own space outside of the communal areas.  A big garden where we can grow our own vegetables, flowers, and a greenhouse’’. 

Luckily for Catfish their house was already in a condition where members could live in comfortably. Not all co-op houses are like this, many will need work done to them and as a member of the co-op, anything that needs a bit of DIY will be done by the occupants. You could say these are not normal properties and very dissimilar to renting, where improvement works and decorating are restricted.

As well as being a member of the co-op, different roles are assigned through volunteering that helps keep the organisation on top of its bills etc which are discussed in monthly meetings. Some of these roles include treasurer and secretary. 

Ruairidh is the secretary for Catfish, which he explained; ‘’I’m in charge of meeting agendas, sending out important emails and that members are kept up to date’’. He went on to say that the role is interesting and educational, and only requires 2-3 days a month when things are kept on top of.

The members of Catfish have learned a lot through the experience of setting their co-op up, which has been passed on and shared throughout their membership as well as running workshops to help others set up their own co-ops.  These workshops take place four times a year at gatherings of fellow housing co-ops run by Radical Routes

Ruairidh conveyed what he likes most about being a part of a co-op, on what he enjoys most about being in the co-op.  Autonomy and independence were high on the list, along with security knowing that the property can’t be sold out from under them.  “It feels like you’re in control of your own destiny almost, and it’s nice to live together communally with people, it feels quite fulfilling and it’s a really affordable alternative to renting”.

If you have any questions or queries regarding the housing co-operative email catfishcoopltd@gmail.com

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