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Housing: Co-operative Housing

Volume 771: debated on Monday 25 April 2016


Asked by

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I draw the House’s attention to my declaration in the register of interests. I am also a councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and director of a co-op which does not operate in the housing sector.

My Lords, the Government continue to support the community-led housing sector, including housing co-operatives, because we want to see communities more in control of decisions that affect them, including the delivery and management of their homes. The March Budget confirmed that £60 million a year from additional receipts from higher stamp duty rates on additional residential properties will be redirected into rural and coastal areas for community-supported housing.

My Lords, to support the growth of the co-operative housing sector, what plans do the Government have to legislate to create co-operative housing as a tenure in its own right and what plans do they have to make it easier for land to be made available to build co-operative housing to deal with the housing crisis and provide much needed affordable housing?

I recognise that, by his own admission, the noble Lord has been in the co-operative movement all his adult life, part of that as a Peer. We recognise that co-operative housing and community land trusts in their various forms play an important role in satisfying the demand for housing. They are very individual and bespoke, and are perhaps more of a challenge to promote one against the other. We will look carefully at a pilot that is going on in Wales before taking any further action, but we otherwise very much promote the idea of co-operatives.

My Lords, since for a housing co-operative to start it needs a building or buildings, otherwise it cannot operate, what are the Government doing to encourage mortgages to be available to such bodies? Without a mortgage, a building cannot be acquired. Will the Government consider guaranteeing or underwriting such mortgages—of course, based as a second charge—on the properties? Have the Government had discussions with those in the field who are giving such mortgages, such as Co-operative & Community Finance, the Co-operative Loan Fund and the Ecology Building Society?

My Lords, we are doing much to expand housing over all of the nation and the noble Lord will know of the different opportunities and tenures that we are promoting. Certainly, it is up to local areas to focus on local co-operatives. As I said earlier, we are providing £60 million to help with this process, particularly in the south-west and Devon.

Will the Minister consider getting his officials to look at the housing co-operative movement in Sweden, the HSB, and the significant contribution it makes to the overall housing stock in that country? Secondly, will he give an undertaking that any expansion in housing co-operatives will not tempt the Government to decide that, because some public money has gone into them, they will feel free to start the process of trying to force the co-operatives to sell the tenancies that their members are occupying?

The noble Lord makes a good point about Sweden and I have no doubt that officials are aware of the Swedish idea. If they are not, I shall certainly remind them. We are looking at the further promotions we can make on the co-operative side but, as he will know, we are focusing on all kinds of different tenures, including taking note of the 86% of people who aspire to buy their own homes.

My Lords, I am intrigued by the reference to a pilot in Wales. Could the Minister tell us more about it and where it is?

I do not know quite where it is but it is certainly in Wales. I shall write to the noble Lord giving him precise details of that exercise.

My Lords, I think the Minister might have been referring to some new co-operative homes in Cardiff and Newport. Will the Minister confirm that the Government in London will draw lessons from the experience of the Welsh Government who, through their political leadership, have shown that it is possible to build and promote new co-operative housing schemes? As I say, they are in both Cardiff and Newport.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for putting me right on that. We are looking carefully at the Welsh projects.