Co-operative Housing is the ‘missing middle’ in Australia’s affordability crisis

29 November 2023

The Australian Co-operative Housing Association (ACHA) and the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) have launched policies and a new website aimed at increasing awareness of non-market housing models to help combat the affordability crisis.

The policy blueprint was launched today in Canberra at a housing affordability roundtable hosted by the Parliamentary Friends of Co-operatives and Mutuals.

The blueprint calls for a greater commitment by government to include co-operative models in future spending to ensure at least 10 per cent of all social housing stock nationally is co-operatively owned by 2033. This compares with the current level of one per cent.

“Rental and equity co-op housing models are the missing middle for low to middle income Australians,” according to Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals Chief Executive, Melina Morrison.

“We cannot simplify the problems many Australians face in securing affordable housing to issues of supply. There are deep structural problems that require innovative solutions to allow for a fairer housing market.

“We have the evidence from overseas markets to demonstrate that co-operative housing contributes to a rich and diverse housing sector, offering security of tenure for people who are locked out of traditional ownership models.

Co-operative housing is an entrenched model in overseas markets. In Zurich, 20 per cent of all housing is delivered and managed by co-operatives and in Denmark rental co-operatives house about one fifth of the population. In Sweden, 22 per cent of all housing stock is co-operative.

Equivalent rates in Australia would mean between 1.6 million and 2.4 million households living in co-operative housing. At the moment, we have just over 5,000 households living in co-operative housing in Australia.

ACHA is asking for at least 10 per cent of funds such as the Social Housing Accelerator and the Housing Australia Future Fund and the expanded National Housing Infrastructure Facility to be allocated to building the co-operative housing sector.

The roundtable will also hear from mutual banks on innovative schemes to assist essential workers and first home buyers into housing closer to where they work.

Today’s roundtable heard from a range of experts including Dr Marcus Spiller from the Interim National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, Liz Thomas, ACHA Chair and CEO, Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL) and Peter Remfrey, Chair, Police Bank.

Melina Morrison, CEO of BCCM,  Liz Thomas, Managing Director of CEHL, Dr Sidsel Grimstad, Senior Lecturer at Griffith University and Nick Sabel, CEO of Common Equity NSW, attended a co-operative housing roundtable held today at Parliament House.
Melina Morrison, CEO of BCCM, Liz Thomas, Managing Director of CEHL, Dr Sidsel Grimstad, Senior Lecturer at Griffith University and Nick Sabel, CEO of Common Equity NSW, attended a co-operative housing roundtable held today at Parliament House.

Preliminary research findings presented at the round table show that active participation in housing co-operatives is linked to a range of beneficial outcomes for their members members.

These benefits include:

  • A sense of home, security, stability, and safety
  • A sense of agency, voice, and empowerment
  • Health and wellbeing, including that of children
  • Skills development, employment, and education
  • A strong sense of community, social networks, mutuality and reciprocity, and trust

The research, which has been funded by ACHA and the Australian Research Council will be released next year.

Liz Thomas, ACHA Chair and CEO, Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL) at the 2023 Housing Roundtable
Liz Thomas, ACHA Chair and CEO, Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL) at the 2023 Housing Roundtable

Listen to Melina Morrison’s interview with Patricia Karvelas on RN Breakfast this morning about housing co-operatives.

Browse the event photo gallery (more photos to come).

About ACHA

ACHA has been established to advocate for the benefits of the housing co-operative model and the growth and diversification of the social housing sector in Australia. It is an alliance of Registered Community Housing Providers that deliver co-operative housing, including Common Equity Housing Ltd (CEHL) Victoria, Co-operation Housing (WA), Common Equity NSW, Common Equity SA and United Housing Co-operative (as a representative of Victorian independent rental co-operatives).

About the BCCM

The BCCM is the national peak body for Australian co-operatives and mutuals. Co-operatives and mutuals provide essential services and affordable pricing to their members across the economy from banking, insurance and superannuation to retail, agriculture, health, social care and housing. Serving eight in every ten Australians, co-operatives and mutuals are private sector, member-owned and operated corporations regulated under the harmonised state and territory Co-operatives National Law or under the Corporations Act (Mutual Companies).

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