Tory bid to turn co-op tenants against one another

Tory bid to turn co-op tenants against one another in latest attack on housing

Niall Mulholland, Newham Longlife Housing Cooperative management committee (personal capacity)

The government’s Housing and Planning Bill is the greatest ever threat to the UK’s 836 housing cooperatives and their 196,000 homes.

The Tories’ profit-driven ideology is at loggerheads with the collective ethos of cooperative and mutual housing organisations. These own or manage homes, normally with some form of members’ democratic control.

As with housing associations, the bill will impose ‘pay to stay’ on housing co-ops. This forces ‘higher-income’ tenants to pay market rent. As rents skyrocket, evictions will rise. Co-ops resisting this policy will face fines.

The bill also reverses agreed annual increases in social tenants’ rent without replacing the income. Co-ops will be ever more reliant on income from pay-to-stay tenants. This can pit co-op members against one another.

As things stand, Thatcher’s notorious ‘right to buy’ policy will not extend to co-ops. The bill does not repeal existing exemptions.

But most housing campaigners expect the Tories will return to impose right to buy. They could use the pretext of ‘demand’ from co-op tenants hit by pay to stay. It is, however, estimated that most of these tenants in London, and some other areas, could not afford even subsidised mortgages.


Faced with their gravest ever threat, housing co-ops are discussing how to avoid the bill’s effects.

Tactics include deregistering from the government’s housing regulator in order to exempt themselves from the bill. Even if successful, this would probably only delay Tory attacks.

To safeguard cooperative and mutual housing, tenants need to link up with other social housing campaigns and housing workers’ unions. A mass movement could stop the bill in its tracks, and fight for fully funded, quality social housing and mass council house building.