The Labour MP for Stalybridge & Hyde, Jonathon Reynolds, has, on 11 October this year, introduced a new Co-Operative Housing Tenure Bill into the House of Commons. This was introduced under the ‘ten minute rule’- a device for backbenchers to introduce new bills to Parliament carried out after question time on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and allowing a ten minute speech both for and against the motion.
The purpose of the Bill was described as follows:
“Here in the UK there is no legal recognition of the unique status of co-operative housing. The law recognises only ownership and tenancy—tenures that date back to feudal times. The Bill would legally acknowledge housing co-operatives in this country for the first time. Of course, co-operative housing schemes exist to some degree already in the UK, but with no specific legal provision they have to be governed by general landlord and tenant law. That means that the arrangements are legally speaking more contractual than co-operative, which presents frequent practical difficulties and limitations on the management and development of the co-operative housing scheme.
“For example, if the law were to recognise co-operative tenure, members would be able to determine repair and maintenance obligations democratically. Currently, the law makes that impossible, dictating that a landlord must be wholly responsible. If the law recognised co-operative tenure, members would be able to make their own rules and regulations democratically. Currently those rules would not be legally enforceable because they would not be in the original tenancy agreement. If housing co-operative tenure were recognised in law, members might be able to access finance secured on their stake in the housing complex. Currently the law defines co-operative members as tenants, and makes that impossible.
“The Bill that I am presenting today would provide for a modest but important change in the law that would allow real co-operative housing to exist and flourish. In doing so, it would provide a significant boost to investment in housing co-operatives, increasing the supply and quality of homes in this country.”
The nature of the Bill, being introduced under the ‘ten minute rule’ and thus without wider Government backing, indicates that this idea has a long way to go until fruition, but it is being seen by many as a step in the right direction.
Proponents argue that creating a distinct form of co-operative housing tenure would ensure that administration is reduced, that courts better understand the nature of co-op housing and that lenders and investors find co-operative housing more attractive.
Fundamentally, they hope that the change to the law, as outlined in the Ten Minute Rule Bill, will mean that co-operative housing will be more viable, more widespread and allow tenants to organise themselves and their neighbourhoods.