Could new “co-op” solve Exeter’s student housing troubles?

Exeposé News online (13 June 2016)

As fears grow about the lack of affordable housing in Exeter, one group of students has put forward a “vibrant and viable alternative” to expensive rented accommodation: a student housing cooperative.

Set up by Sean Porter, Will Vasey and Sherv Cheung, Exeter Student Housing Cooperative (ESHCO) aims to “bring cheaper housing to Exeter” through a community-owned scheme.

“It’s a non-profit entity, which means we can charge below-market rates to students,” Sean Porter told Exeposé on behalf of the group.

“Any surplus made on the house will be used for expansion, house repairs/improvements and community schemes – whatever the members decide is best.”

Taking inspiration from existing housing co-ops in Sheffield, Edinburgh and Birmingham, ESHCO plans to be a “fully-mutual cooperative” Porter said, “which means all tenants are members and all members are potential tenants.”

Currently the team are raising funds to cover legal fees and registration of the co-op. Thecrowdfunding page went live on 31 May, and has so far raised over £520 in pledges – including support from City Councillor and former Exeter student Stephen Brimble.

“I have been trying to push for support for cooperatives since I have been an Exeter City Councillor,” Brimble wrote on the page. Wishing the team “good luck” with the scheme, he added: “this is a project that is close to my heart as an Exeter graduate.”

The next task is actually purchasing a property – but the team has already made some headway with this.

“There are many cooperative funding organisations that loan housing deposits to cooperatives,” Porter explained. “We have been in contact with some already, and the feedback has been great.”

Once the cooperative is up and running, ESHCO hopes it will give students a viable alternative to expensive accommodation – both privately-rented and in University halls.

“We would love for the cooperative to be a serious alternative for freshers’ in the future,” Porter said.

“We are deeply concerned about the extent to which affordable student housing is being replaced by a new brand of luxury accommodation that is beyond the financial reach of most prospective students,” he explained, adding: “We want to provide affordable housing that also opens up opportunities to develop community projects that enrich the city.”

(Image: ESHCO Facebook page)

>>View original Exeposé News story>>

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