Workshop housing cooperative.
One of the most innovative aspects of the ‘Yes, We Rent!’ project is to coproduce affordable rental housing through a collaboration between the municipality and its citizens by founding a tenants’ cooperative. In animating citizens to become active agents in the provision of affordable housing, ‘Yes, We Rent!’ touches a key issue for public housing policy today.
QUOTE
Text

We wanted to explore how the collaboration between tenants could lead to the generation of affordable housing. Is it possible that housing policies do not just work in a top-down manner with the government as the sole provider of affordable housing? Could we move towards a system in which the community -through collaboration with administrations or by itself- could self-generate affordable housing in the rental market? This is the main challenge, the main proposal and the main vision of the project.

Text

In addressing this challenge, the ‘Yes, We Rent!’ project has strived to bring together two types of stakeholders with different orientations and cultures: on the one hand, citizen and rights-to-housing movements with their bottom-up and grassroots logic; and on the other, the municipality with its more top-down and administrative approach. Both sides bring different skills and capacities into play to achieve more together. Exploring and testing the potential of this kind of cooperation is the main contribution of the project ‘Yes, We Rent!’ to innovation of public housing policies. At the same time, ‘Yes, We Rent!’ represents an exception in public-cooperative collaboration. While public support for housing cooperatives mostly happens in the form of ceding land and buildings, support for Bloc Cooperatiu consisted in the municipality transferring temporary control over privately owned flats. This support provides the cooperative with seed capital and at the same time with an opportunity to develop its capacity in the management of housing stocks.

In the framework of the ‘Yes, We Rent!’ project, the city of Mataró accompanied and supported the creation of a tenants’ cooperative through citizens to manage the flats they mobilised during the project. These flats have become the foundation of an affordable housing stock under the management of the tenants’ cooperative that will continue to incorporate new flats for affordable housing after the end of the EU-project ‘Yes, We Rent!’.

After the process for attracting owners to the affordable housing scheme had begun, in February 2020, the Yes We Rent! partner Fundació Unió de Cooperadors made a call to citizens to participate in the constitution of a cooperative. Around 50 citizens went to a first meeting, which soon led to a core group of ten who withstood the difficulties that the pandemic imposed to develop the cooperative. Of this group, 2 people were eventually contracted to become the first technical team to accompany the process of constitution of the tenants’ cooperative Bloc Cooperatiu. For further information read the ‘zoom-in’: Mataró’s Tenants Housing Cooperative for affordable rental housing.

There was a contradiction between the usually lengthy process of setting up a housing cooperative and the context of an EU-funded project, with its expectation to have a cooperative running within a relatively short time. The restrictions imposed due to the pandemic also made it difficult for the founding members of the cooperative to meet, to build trust among each other and to develop the project further.

Another particularity is that ‘Yes, We Rent!’ - as a municipality led project, set up a cooperative “from above”, with the city council being present from the outset and providing support accompaniment. These atypical conditions created frictions, but they helped to put the focus from the outset on the project as a pilot for testing the potential of tenant's cooperatives as an instrument of public housing policies.

The engagement of the founding members together with the public support and the resources made available through the EU project helped Bloc Cooperatiu to take off very quickly. For legal reasons, the municipality could not become a member in the cooperative, as initially planned, which means that other legal forms of institutional or contractual cooperation had to be defined for the time after the end of the EU-funded project.

With the end of the EU-funded pilot phase, less resources are available for the municipality and at the cooperative Bloc Cooperatiu to invest in the partnership. To support the further development the city of Mataró has given 50,000 € to the Fundació Unió de Cooperadors, that is funding two staff positions of Bloc Cooperatiu for one more year; this to continue the management of Bloc Coperatiu and the acquired flats of the project. The city of Mataró also considers to start joint campaigns in the future to acquire further flats for the "Yes, we rent!" housing scheme. The city will also continue to inform owners about the "Yes, we rent!" scheme and the corresponding support possibilities by the city and the entities of public interest. Further possibilities would be helping with the technical capacities to manage affordable housing, detect new flats and conduct renovations.

At the same time, the citizen-led partnership in Mataró needs to be broadened into an ecosystem involving more actors for the provision of affordable housing. With political commitment on the side of the municipality to further engage in the co-production of affordable housing, and a diversification of non-profit actors on the housing market, public support can extend to new instruments such as the cession of buildings and land for citizen-led social housing or the creation of new credit lines.

Currently, to support further public-citizens cooperation in the provision of affordable housing, the following scheme is currently undergoing political consultations:

Organisations can apply for the label of "entity of public interest". To become an “entity of public interest”, an organisation has to prove, among others, that it mobilises rental flats for rent below 20 % of the average rent index. In addition, it has to prove that flats are rented out without any discrimination. Further, the management and organisation of the entity has to be transparent and participative. The organisation must be willing to allow verification of compliance with the requirements at any time. The label of "entity of public interest" can also support the organisation in its public image.

At the same time, owners, who rent or make available their flats to “entities of public interest” (on a non-discriminatory basis, 20 % below the rent index), can apply for the following incentives:

1.      Local property tax reduction or inheritance tax reduction (for people that inherit a flat)

2.     Grant for insurance about rental guarantee during the contract period and any legal expenses in this context

3.      Grant or credit aid for the (energy-oriented) renovation of the flat

This scheme provides incentives for owners to co-operate with "entities of public interest" in the provision of affordable housing in Mataró.

The "Yes, We Rent!" project is an innovative attempt to bring together citizens and the municipality to co-produce affordable rental housing. The project has established a tenants' cooperative called Bloc Cooperatiu that manages the flats mobilized during the project and has become the foundation of an affordable housing stock. The project has explored the potential of collaboration between citizens and the municipality in the provision of affordable housing and tested the feasibility of tenant cooperatives as an instrument of public housing policies. The project has encountered difficulties, including the pandemic and the usually lengthy process of setting up a housing cooperative. However, the founding members' engagement and the public support, including the resources made available through the EU project, helped the tenants’ cooperative Bloc Cooperatiu to take off quickly. The citizen-led partnership for affordable housing production in Mataró needs now to be broadened into an ecosystem involving more actors for the provision of affordable housing. With political commitment on the side of the municipality to further engage in the co-production of affordable housing, and a diversification of non-profit actors on the housing market, public support can extend also to new instruments such as the cession of buildings and land for citizen-led social housing or the creation of new credit lines.

About this resource

Author
Nils Scheffler
Project
Location
Mataró, Spain Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions
Programme/Initiative
2014-2020

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

Go to profile
More content from UIA
1129 resources
See all

Similar content