Across the world students are taking control of their housing by starting housing co-ops that they own and run.
What is a student housing co-op?
A student housing co-operative is a house or halls of residence that is owned and run by students.
There are three currently established in the UK, in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield.
Student Co-op Home is raising funds through a community share offer to raise funds to buy property to lease to 3 student co-ops across the UK.
Student housing co-operatives typically offer significantly lower rents while providing an educational and community environment for students to live and grow in. They are, in general, non-profit, communal, and self-governing with students pooling their monetary and personal resources to create a community style home.
Many student housing cooperatives share operation and governing of the house. As with most cooperatives, student housing co-ops follow the Rochdale Principles and promote collaboration and community work within the membership for mutual benefit.
Meet some existing student housing co-ops
Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative
Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative (ESHC) is the UK’s largest student housing co-op with 106 members. The students who founded ESHC were inspired by their experiences of studying abroad in North America, where a strong network of housing co-ops is a regular feature for students.
Opening in 2014, the co-op is based on the Rochdale principles meaning that not only is it democratically led by its students members but there is a commitment to education, training and concern for the community around them.
This results in members actively contributing 3-6 hours a week of their time. They use this time to run the co-op which could be in the form of cooking, cleaning or maintenance but also through creative workshops and skills swaps on yoga and horticulture.
Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative is made up of two properties split into 24 flats adjacent to the historic The Golf Tavern in Bruntsfield.
The current rent for a room is £315 per month (approximately £75/week) which includes all utilities, internet, and use of cleaning supplies and loo roll. This is in stark contrast to the average rents of the city of Edinburgh, estimated to be £112 per week before paying for utility bills. This showcases how members of ESHC have created a true alternative to living in one of the UK’s most expensive cities. Find out more...
Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative
Opened in June 2014, Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative was the UK’s first operational student housing co-operative. It was founded by seasoned student activists with a desire to create high quality, self-managed housing for students by students, as well as to find solutions to the broken student housing markets.
The co-op’s members live in and run a 9 bedroom property in Birmingham’s Selly Oak district. Inspired by the Rochdale Co-operative model, the student members attribute their success to their finance, maintenance, outreach and admin working groups, which form the bedrock of how they operate.
Currently rent is £277.33 a month, excluding bills, which equates to just £64 a week. This is lower than the £310 monthly (£71.70 weekly, also excluding bills) rent that, according to Birmingham University, is the average for the Selly Oak area.
The co-op’s finances are managed collaboratively and in complete transparency among all tenants, and profits are re-invested as and how members decide. So far, they’ve made significant improvements to the property, including the addition of two extra bedrooms, a greenhouse, a garden workshop, 35m2 of gardening beds. There are also developed plans for creating a fully accessible ground floor, improving the energy efficiency of the house and converting the basement into an additional living space.
The property is currently leased from The Phone Co-op, and BSHC is saving towards a mortgage. With plans to grow, the co-op is also seeking arrangements with The Phone Co-op and housing associations to expand into either a second house, or one of the unused 20+ bedroom properties in the city. Find out more...
What is Student Co‑op Homes?
- 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 iQ2, the largest private student housing provider in the UK.
- Will 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.
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.
Who is involved with Student Co-op Homes
The start-up and incubation of Student Co‑op Homes have also been supported by Co-operatives UK, The Midcounties Co‑operative, East of England Co‑operative, The Reach Fund and Students for Co-operation.
Student housing co-operatives and prospective groups looking to set up as housing co-ops exist in the following towns and cities:
- Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative (established since 2014)
- Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative (established since 2014)
- Sheffield Student Housing Co-operative (established since 2015)
- Glasgow Student Housing Co-operative
- Nottingham Student Housing Co-operative