Could the student housing co-ops popping up across the UK challenge the frequently exploitative relationship between landlords and tenants? They’re already inspiring young people to set up their own co-operative businesses, finds Rhiannon J Davies who visited Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative
Colourful murals cover the walls of the stairwell in Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, while potted plants brighten the windowsills. A cardboard arrow on the wall reads: “Flat 1 – This way for friendship, fun, feline, food and love. Come on down!”
The building contains 24 flats, offering beds to 106 students from educational institutions across Edinburgh. Leased from a housing association, it is run entirely by members of the co-op – known as ESHC. With no private owners putting profits ahead of residents, things have a distinctly defiant air: the students are in charge. And they pay just 70 per cent of the market average.
“The best thing about living here is that we’ve all got each other’s back,” says resident Kate O’Neill. “If someone says they’re feeling a bit lonely, they’ll instantly receive invites to dinner.”
Give stories, not stuff
Simon Fern has lived here for two years: “Our rent is kept low, in part, because of an ideological belief in affordable homes for all, but also because residents are expected to provide labour and time too.”
Accordingly, the selection process is based upon two questions: why do you want to live here? And: what can you contribute? Rather than key-card entrances, many flats operate an open-door policy:…
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