Press release

New national body launched to fix “broken” student housing market

  • New national body, Student Co‑op Homes, created to address “rip‑off” student housing
  • 62% of students use loans to help pay rent and only half think their accommodation is value for money, according to NUS research1
  • Student housing co‑operatives are houses or halls of residence owned and managed by students. Three have so far been established in the UK, in Edinburgh, Sheffield and Birmingham
  • Student co‑operative housing can be up to 30% cheaper than equivalent student housing in respective cities
  • Student Co‑op Homes announces plans to increase national capacity of student housing co‑ops from 150 to 10,000 beds within next five years

In a climate where “rip‑off” student housing is sparking rent strikes, and students grapple with rising tuition fees and student debt, Student Co‑op Homes has launched to offer alternative, cheaper student housing in towns and cities across the UK – housing that is owned and run by students.

The benefits of student housing co‑ops are many, explains Mike Shaw, a founding member of Edinburgh Student Housing Co‑operative2:

“There is no landlord – we are the landlords. We are in charge. We are democratically run by our members. We provide better quality housing and we are able to bring costs right down to offer cheaper housing.”

In Edinburgh the rent is 30% cheaper for members of Edinburgh Student Housing Co‑operative, who pay £75/week compared to average student rents of £112/week elsewhere in the city. Similarly in Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative is 10% cheaper than the average equivalent where they pay £64/week (excluding bills) compared to the average for the Selly Oak area which, according to the University of Birmingham, is £71.70/week (also excluding bills).

Shaw adds “not only is it cheaper but the money you’re paying is going towards the upkeep of the house which leads to a much higher quality of accommodation.”

Christopher Jarrold, member of Birmingham Student Housing Co‑operative highlights additional benefits of student‑run housing, as the members manage all aspects of running the accommodation, from finance to maintenance:

“It’s hugely formative and has enabled me to grow as a person and to think about how I can apply this to other areas of life as well. It definitely changes the way you relate to people and what your ambitions are in life.”

The co‑op sector has rallied around the aspirations of Student Co‑op Homes, which aims to increase the national capacity of student housing co‑ops from 150 to 10,000 beds within the next five years – equating to one third of the current market share of iQ, the largest private student housing provider in the UK.

Steve Murrells, CEO at The Co-op, welcomes the initiative:

“Housing is exactly the kind of broken market where a co‑operative intervention could be a game changer and make our movement relevant to a new generation.”

This move is also welcomed by Scott Jennings, board member of Students for Co‑operation who have worked in partnership with Co‑operatives UK to establish Student Co‑op Homes:

“The current student housing market is broken. For too long the private rental sector has got away with steadily increasing rents for poorer quality student housing.”

“Everyone we speak to is so inspired by the idea of student housing co‑ops but access is so limited. Until now we’ve not had enough investment in this area so that students can access this sort of living whilst at university.”

“The establishment of Student Co‑op Homes is essential to the growth of this sector. We have one point of investment, we have a plan. We can buy in batches around the country and we can grow. We can actually take on the landlords and the problem system that we are living under.”

The plan for Student Co‑op Homes is to own the property portfolio of all student housing co‑ops and lease them to back to local student groups. This will aid stability and sustainability and overcome the need for short‑term tenancies for students.

Student Co-op Homes is already working with groups in Nottingham, Norwich, Leeds and Glasgow and is seeking interest from students and groups in other towns and cities across the UK. More information can be found at www.uk.coop/students

Neil Turton, Chief Operating Office and champion of student co‑op housing at Co‑operatives UK adds:

“Students are poor consumers of housing. While they know they are being ripped off by landlords, they do not study or live in one place for long enough to effect changes.”

“Co‑operatives UK is excited to be at the forefront – developing cheaper and better quality student housing across the UK. This is a key aspect of the National Co‑op Development Strategy, launched last year, which sees ‘replication’ as a significant development opportunity for the co‑op sector.”

“By incubating Student Co‑op Homes we will drive the growth of student co‑op housing for the benefit of current university students, and for those in decades to come.”

The idea follows a similar model that has been working in the United States for decades through the North American Students of Co‑operation (NASCO), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.


Contact Co‑operatives UK for information or to request interviews:

Across the world students are taking back control of their housing by starting housing co-ops that they own and run.

There are only a handful established in the UK, but this is soon to change with the launch of Student Co-op Homes.

If you're a student, or interested in Student Co-op Homes get involved: www.uk.coop/students