The Sydney Morning Herald has published an article on co-operative housing, Gray pays $115 a week in rent. But there’s a catch, on 15 June 2024.

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In the midst of Sydney’s daunting housing landscape, Gray Horwitz has discovered an ingenious way to beat the odds. As a PhD student, he resides in an apartment within the Stucco Housing Co-operative, primarily catering to full-time students at the University of Sydney. With a mere $115 weekly rental fee, Horwitz and his four housemates have unlocked an affordable living solution in the heart of Newtown.

City of Sydney Greens councillor Sylvie Ellsmore underscored the pivotal role co-ops play in preserving housing affordability across European cities like Zurich, Vienna and Copenhagen. “When housing is public or collectively run by the people who live in it – as a home, not a commercial investment – it keeps prices down,” she said.

Western Sydney University professorial research fellow Louise Crabtree-Hayes shed light on the defining principles of co-operatives, emphasising the “one member, one vote” approach that empowers residents with a voice in the management of their co-op. These principles, rooted in self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, set co-operatives apart from other housing models.

Nick Sabel, the chief executive of community housing provider Common Equity, highlighted the essence of housing co-operatives: “It is a housing model that engages residents in decisions that affect their lives and facilitates communities to deliver their own housing their own way.”

At Stucco, residents are expected to contribute approximately two hours per week to meetings and an additional two hours of work for the co-op. As Horwitz explained, unlike renting, co-op residents are their own landlords, so they collectively decide on everything from fixing leaks to undertaking structural work for the entire building.

Melina Morrison, the chief executive of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), encapsulated the unique position of housing co-ops, describing them as a middle ground between renting and ownership. “Residents have the affordability of renting and the security and agency of owning. Unlike subsidies for market housing which assist house prices to grow, co-op housing, which is run at-cost, helps to stablise prices,” she said.

While active involvement in governance and management can be time-consuming, and co-operatives are not widely understood within the housing system, making their establishment challenging, advocates like Ellsmore emphasise their ability to provide secure and controlled living environments for those who might otherwise struggle to afford housing.

As Sydney grapples with its housing crisis, the co-operative model emerges as a promising solution, offering an alternative path to affordable and sustainable living for a diverse range of residents, from students to essential workers and beyond.