Network proves that houses become homes in co-ops

I work on the marketing team at the Wales Co-operative Centre, and while I’ve been here for ten years, I don’t really specialise on any area of our work. I do, however, have to have a good grasp of all our work, including social business support, digital inclusion, financial inclusion, social care, community shares and, of course, co-operative housing.

I like to get out and meet the people that my colleagues are working with and supporting to achieve incredible things, so the Co-operative Housing Network event in Carmarthen provided a good opportunity to do that.

The meeting was attended by people from various backgrounds, including local authority, housing associations and members of existing and emerging co-op and co-housing schemes. While I have a reasonable knowledge of the way co-operative housing has developed in Wales in the last five years, I have little knowledge of housing legislation and the things people need to do in order to set up and live in a housing co-operative. Dave Palmer, Co-op Housing Project Manager, has this in abundance.

He led the meeting, which was loosely structured around a presentation which gave everyone a good grounding into the background and evolution of co-op housing in Wales. The presentation was used in such a way that it allowed a lot of conversation between each slide.

I think the mark of a good event is that people stay, and stay engaged. Both applied on this day. The conversation flowed well and showed a genuine interest in co-op housing from everyone in the room. People were there for different reasons, but it was clear that everyone came to learn. It was also pleasing to see that the members of Old Oak housing co-op were willing to support those in the room who were just embarking on the journey of becoming a housing co-operative. The sixth co-operative principle is ‘co-operation among co-operatives’, which came naturally to this group.

The members of Old Oak were inspirational during the meeting and were some of the strongest advocates for co-op housing that I’d ever encountered. In terms of setting up a housing co-op, overcoming various challenges and keeping the thing going, they’ve been there and got the t-shirt. They are now passionate about co-op housing in the extreme. Some talked about how living as a housing co-op has changed their lives for the better, talking about how a 70-year-old resident said she was ‘no longer lonely’ since moving in. You can’t put a price on that, can you?

With the various conversations that had been started throughout the day, and new working relationships forged, it was easy to see how this event could play a part in supporting the co-op housing sector in this part of Wales for the foreseeable future.

I helped to the end the meeting on a surprising note. Poetry is something that I like to write in my spare time and I felt compelled to share a poem with those in the room, that I’d written during a time when I was experiencing a challenging housing situation. Here it is:

“When will this house become a home?

So that I may stop and no longer roam

I long for a time to be more stable

Where my feet feel like they’re under the table

When will this house become a home?


When can I rest more than just my head?

Where seeds of dreams are planted in bed

To wake afresh and not so weary

And face the mirror with eyes less bleary

When can I rest more than just my head?


When can I put out the welcome mat?

For visiting friends to talk this and that

Have tea and cake on the finest china

Time with you all is not something minor

When can I put out the welcome mat?


When will I feel like taking root?

Not jumping from rock to rock as the mood may suit

To dress bare walls with works of art

Creating a sanctuary would be a start

When will I feel like taking root?”




    Having attended the meeting, I felt compelled to comment on what a fabulous showcase it was, illustrating exactly what can be achieved when organsiations truly work in collaboration with tenants. The maturity of the relationship with the Housing Association was testament to the hard work that had gone in long before a shovel had gone in the ground on the development. Well done to everyone involved.

    Councillor Dena Lloyd waterford

    On the day I was very surprised at the knowledge and understanding of cooperative housing that I gained throughout the day,I was very impressed with the collaboration between tenants and the housing association,
    Well done to everyone that took part,looking forward to the next one

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