Housing Co-operative brings life to regeneration of valleys estate

Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative gives residents a high quality, affordable option in Gellideg and has redefined the area as a place that people want to live.

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Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative is a fully mutual housing co-operative in Gellideg that was developed in partnership with Merthyr Valleys Homes. It consists of 12, two bedroom flats that are let at intermediate rent, meaning that they are an affordable housing option in the area.

A fully mutual housing co-operative is one in which all tenants are members of the co-op and all the co-op members are tenants. This means that the tenants living at Taf Fechan are in control of running the co-operative and are in charge of everything from rent collection and tenant selection, to procuring cleaning and maintenance services.

Taf Fechan was formed in 2015 under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.

The refurbishment of the Taf Fechan building was part of the wider regeneration strategy for Gellideg. The flats stand at the front of the Gellideg estate, opposite the local school and on the main road into the community. Before the co-op was formed, the majority of the flats had been empty since the 1990’s and were in a dilapidated state, which gave anyone driving into the area a bad first impression. They had also gained a reputation for anti-social behaviour and were practically unlettable, even at low rents.

Merthyr Valleys Homes felt that a way to stimulate demand for housing in Gellideg, was to offer a variety of different types of tenure in the area. They carried out an appraisal of various options for the Taf Fechan flats, which included demolition, but in the end it was decided that refurbishment and the formation of a housing co-operative was the most appropriate solution.

MVH understood that in order to encourage people into the area, the housing on offer had to be high quality, and although refurb costs were high, the project lent itself to a new funding avenue.

MVH had seen examples of local authorities in the UK lending to housing associations, so approached Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council (MTCBC) to work in partnership. The local authority were very supportive, particularly because of the regeneration elements of the project, as well as the prospect of delivering more affordable homes in the area.

The local authority took out a 25 year loan on a prudential borrowing arrangement from the Public Works Loan Board, with a fixed interest rate. They then on-lent this money to Merthyr Valleys Homes at a very low rate of interest, who used to the loan to refurbish the building, which is now leased to Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative.

Because of the co-operation between the Local Authority and Housing association, the money was borrowed at a low rate, which means that Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative are able to keep rents at an affordable price, whilst keeping the quality of their homes high.

As a fully mutual co-operative, all residents of Taf Fechan are members, and all members are residents. They have monthly meetings and a voluntary committee that ensures the business operates efficiently and effectively. Members are responsible for communal and void property cleaning, allocations, property inspections and garden maintenance. The buy in services from MVH, including repairs and rent collection, however, they are under no obligation to do this; if members were no longer satisfied with the services provided by MVH they could procure elsewhere.

Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative has already had a positive impact on the local community; Merthyr Valleys Homes have seen an increased demand for properties in the area, and the Taf Fechan Co-operative has an extensive waiting list.

Other benefits include:

  • No anti social behaviour incidents since the co-operative was established
  • Low housing management support time
  • Low void turnover time
  • Creation of positive relationships and a supportive community network
  • Sustainable tenancies
  • Committee are able to set their own annual rent increases
  • Members choose the services they want provided and who provides them
  • Sense of ownership and control, with the option to elect to take on more responsibilities
  • Members involved and making the decisions that affect them.

Merthyr Valleys Homes approached the Co-operative Housing Project, managed by the Wales Co-operative Centre, to support and advise the project. The Co-operative Housing Project, alongside the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, helped MVH with the early engagement and selection of members, raising awareness in the local community, advising on governance structures, and the development of a bespoke training package for members.

All members of the Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative took part in the 6 month training programme, covering housing management, co-operative principles, team building, governance structures, budgeting and finance, and running a co-operative society. This training gave the members the skills and knowledge required to run and manage a successful housing co-operative.

Interested in living in a housing co-op?

Tenants of the Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative tell us what it’s like to live there, what they are responsible for and how decisions are made.

Interested in developing a new co-operative or community led housing scheme?

Hear from staff at Merthyr Valleys Homes about how the Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative was set up, the positive impact it has had on the regeneration of the Gellideg area and how the Wales Co-operative Centre were able to support them.

Get in touch to see how we could help you on your co-operative and community led housing journey.

co-op.housing@wales.coop

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