A national body set up to grow the UK student co-operative housing movement, Student Co-op Homes aims to create affordable, higher quality housing for students in higher education.
“Today, students face increasing pressure, debt and mental health challenges,” says Student Co‑op Homes (SCH) Director Scott Jennings. “Student housing co‑ops are a solution that can break the cycle of high‑cost, poor‑quality private rents that drive up debt and exacerbate poor health.”
Student Co-op Homes was formed in 2018 to support existing and start‑up student housing co‑ops in the UK and drive the creation of more not-for-profit homes that students manage and maintain.
Student housing co-ops are community style homes where everyone collaborates for their mutual benefit. The rent students pay is invested in buildings, students and local communities – so ultimately the promotion of the co‑operative movement and ethos is put into practice.
Living in a housing co-op teaches young people how to manage properties, take care of their finances and work collaboratively. It builds confidence, instils important life skills and introduces the next generation to co-operative principles and practices.
SCH was founded by founders of new-start and existing established student housing co-ops who identified the need for a central body to help acquire properties for co-ops like theirs.
“We saw that the centralisation of ownership by one entity would give us the leverage to help grow a sustainable student housing co-op movement,” says Scott.
“We looked at NASCO Properties in North America who acquire properties and lease them to member student housing co-ops – and we thought that model could work here.” So Scott and his fellow student housing co-op members set about forming a national body. With the backing of Co-operatives UK, Student Co-op Homes came into being.
With several start-up student housing co-ops in different parts of the country in need of houses, SCH’s first task was to raise finance to buy property – so it launched a community share offer.
To prepare for the offer, SCH received support from The Hive, the co-op business support programme delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank.
The Hive’s support came in the form of expert help from Community Shares Practitioner Dave Boyle. “Dave drafted the community share offer document and went through the legals for us, it was invaluable support,” says Scott.
The result: the share offer raised £308,875 in investment and SCH now has some 160 supporter members in addition to its founding student housing co-op members.
With the capital raised from the share offer, SCH was able to buy a new student home in Nottingham. “We have four people in that house. The plan is to re-mortgage it later then buy a new property. We are in a good place,” says Scott.
“Due to the success of the share issue – which raised our profile – we are currently working with another progressive organisation that has a large 30-40 bed property and wants to lease it to use.”
Scott believes the offer would not have been a success without The Hive’s support. “It provided the essential expertise that gave us a high-quality share offer document. That’s something our co-op alone would not have been able to produce.
“We were a unique proposition – there’s never been a community share offer that’s been so nationally based and we were the first student one. We were something unique and so those hours of support were essential to show that yes, we were different to what was out there, but we were also a good investment.
“Without Dave’s input, courtesy of The Hive, the share issue wouldn’t have been at the same level and we wouldn’t have got this far.”