Willow Housing Co-operative – Established 1984
8. C.R.B. CHECK
11. GREEN ISSUES
15. AN END NOTE
Willow Housing Co-op is :-
A group of people who have got together to meet their own housing needs.
Willow was formed in 1983 when THE RULES were introduced.
There is no landlord as such but you have to be responsible and follow these rules.
As a group we currently rent 5 houses to live in.
When you move into one of the houses you become a member of the group, and are expected to Co-operate with other members for your own housing needs.
Everybody should meet at regular house meetings where issues are discussed by the Members.
The Group is managed by General Meeting and a duly elected Management Committee consisting of Manager, Treasurer, Chairman and Secretary.
These positions on the Management Committee are voluntary and open to any members who wish to take on the responsibility of the role.
The Co-op also has 1 part time member of staff as Housing Manager; he is an Honorary Member responsible to the Management committee.
The Manager is responsible for the day to day running of the Co-operative.
The Management Committee and Housing Manager have put together a HANDBOOK (2003), LICENCE AGREEMENT (June 2007) and a CONTRACTUAL TENANCY (2013 – updated 2016) these documents have been amended and minuted by the group at house meetings.
All families have now signed the updated Contractual Tenancy in 2016
Everyone should familiarize themselves with the Rules, Handbook and Tenancy Agreement to understand what they are a part of, and attend house meetings to understand the workings of the Housing Co-operative.
1. MISSION STATEMENT
“TO PROVIDE HOMES FOR THOSE IN HOUSING NEED FOR PEOPLE WHO WISH TO OR ARE PREPARED TO LIVE IN AND CONTRIBUTE TO A CO-OPERATIVE ENVIRONMENT”
We are proud to be a Housing Co-operative, and follow the principles of the Co-operative movement; we are the only Housing Co-operative in Norwich (Est. 1984) we are a social enterprise as well as a business and add diversity to local housing options.
Co-operatives are not simply about providing housing; they are about “empowering people”. We house people from a variety of backgrounds and usually contain a cross-section of people with differing skills and abilities.
Our members can help and support each other and acquire a range of experiences through their involvement. They are often surprised by the level of control they can affect in the management of the Co-op and this level of commitment properly nurtured leads to responsibility in other areas of their lives.
Willow Housing as well as being a Fully Mutual Housing Co-operative is registered as an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) and as a Friendly Society with the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
Reg No 24513R
Members of Co-operatives-UK.
This document and the ideas within, remain the intellectual property of the Willow Housing Co-operative. Please reference any usage.
2. WILLOW HOUSING ETHOS
We are different from most other types of accommodation, we are not a hostel, nor are we a charity or care organisation – we are a Co-operative.
This means that when you join you take on the same (equal) responsibilities as all the other members. If there is a problem within the house with fixtures or fittings, then it is as much up to you to fix it as anyone else. Willow will pay for these things but there is no ‘Landlord’ to do it for you, you essentially become your own Landlord.
It is down to the members of each house to look after that house and help improve it.
As a Co-operative we have regular meetings, which you should attend, at these meetings we deal with the Co-operatives business where you can raise any issues that you may have. Or an emergency meeting can be called in 24 hours by notifying the secretary.
By taking a room in one of the Co-op houses you are signing up to the Co-op ethos that you accept the Co-operative ideals and agree to work in a Co-operative manner. You must familiarise yourself with the Co-op handbook and attend house meetings.
Due to accepting members on face value and without prejudice we have a 3 month probationary period, after this time a members position is considered stable.
The Co-operatives only revenue is from our rent and as we run on a shoestring budget your highest priority, as a member is to pay your rent. We do not ask for a deposit but this leaves us vulnerable to people leaving and owing us money; this is why we ask for payments of rent to be made direct to Willow. If just one member stops paying their rent then this impacts on all the other members, the finances really are that tight. Recently we have had to ask for rent 8 weeks in advance.
You must notify the Treasurer of any changes in your Local Housing Allowance and arrange Direct Debits to pay rent if you are working.
Failure to accept this ethos and act in such a manner will result in non-acceptance into the Co-op.
Your Landlord is Willow Housing Co-operative.
There are 3 post-holders within the Co-operative :-
Secretariat – Holly.
Chair – Neil.
Treasurer – Peter.
And 2 further positions:-
Housing Manager – Peter Shaman
H+S Officer – Simon.
We currently manage 5 properties
A 3 bed on Suffolk Square.
A 4 bed on Birkbeck rd.
A 3 bed on Heathgate.
A 4 bed on Shorncliffe Ave.
And a 2nd 3 bed on Heathgate.
3. HOUSING CO-OPERATIVES
A Housing Co-operative is a housing association run along Co-operative principles It is owned and managed by the members of the co-operative.
Only tenants or prospective tenants may be members, and only members may hold a tenancy. This means that decisions are made directly by the people who are affected by those decisions. Housing Co-operatives provide a way for people to share in the management of property and live in it at affordable rent levels, as opposed to rent levels designed to generate profit for an individual or company. They are an alternative to home ownership in the traditional sense or renting in the private sector. Willow Housing Co-operative can trade, enter into agreements and own objects & property.
Willow is a legal entity in its own right.
Willow is managed by General Meeting – a meeting which all members are invited to. Members who do not contribute are not only a threat to the ability of the co-operative to function, but are benefiting unduly from others efforts.
Willow is about ordinary people within a household managing their own homes, and giving them control of their own lives, many have never been in such a position. New Co-operators are often surprised by the level of responsibility they can take on, and this level of responsibility, properly nurtured through appropriate training and support, leads to responsibility in other areas of their lives. Active Co-operators can acquire a range of skills through their involvement in the management of the Co-operative.
A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
Co-operatives are based on the values of responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
THE CO-OPERATIVE VALUES
Co-operatives are registered as a friendly society and are organised with reference to the following (Tolpuddle Martyrs 1834) values :-
• Equity (fairness)
NB. The Tolpuddle Martyrs 1834 was a name given to a group of 5 different tradesmen, they were deported to Australia by a Tyrant Faction within local government for having a meeting – even though central government had just allowed unions.
THE CO-OPERATIVE PRINCIPLES
The 7 Co-operative principles (Rochdale Pioneers 1844) are guidelines by which co-ops put their values into practice.
1) Voluntary and open membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2). Democratic member control
Co-ops are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. All members who carry out a role on behalf of the Co-op are accountable to the membership of the Co-op.
Co-op members have equal voting rights. (one member, one vote)
3). Member economic participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their Co-op. That capital is usually the common property of the Co-op. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership.
4). Autonomy and independence
Co-ops are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensures democratic control by their members and maintain their Co-op autonomy.
5). Education, training and information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees, so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6). Co-operation amongst Co-ops
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7). Concern for community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
NB. The Rochdale Pioneers 1844 built on the ideas from the Tolpuddle Martyrs Union of Tradesmen and formed the 1st Co-operative shop.
4. WILLOW HOUSING POLICY
Willow was originally set up in 1984 to meet the needs of single mothers and their children. This did develop over the years, and to conform to Norwich City Councils Homelessness Strategy and Allocations Scheme we were concentrating on single homeless people who registered with Norwich City Council for housing.
We did begin taking nominees from N.C.C. 2006 and then the CAPS team – NCC’s approved referral agency. but since 2009 we operated our own waiting list for prospective members and are now currently only housing families.
All of the 5 properties rented from the Private Sector are therefore now housing families.
Membership of Willow Housing Co-operative is voluntary and available (without artificial restrictions based on any political, social, racial or religious discrimination) to all persons who can make use of its services and who are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
Prospective members are selected on the basis of who has the greatest housing need of those applying and can show commitment to participate in co-operative business.
All members must ensure that they or any visitors to the dwelling do not commit any acts of harassment to any other person. “Harassment” includes (But is not limited to):
Violence or threats of violence.
Abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
Damage or threats of damage to property.
Writing threatening abusive or insulting letters or graffiti.
Any act or omission calculated to interfere with the peace and comfort of any other person or to inconvenience any other person.
Further reading:- Willow Rules.
We do not require a reference.
We do not ask for a deposit.
A Co-operative consists of it’s members – all tenants are members and should meet at General Meetings. One member one vote. Any member may nominate themselves for a position on the Management Committee.
The General Meeting
General Meetings are held every couple of months. Accurate records and Minutes are kept of all meetings.
The Annual General Meeting
The A.G.M. shall be held after the close of our financial year. (December)
At the meeting we shall:- Consider the frequency of general meetings during the coming year.
Consider the annual report on the business of the Co-operative during the previous financial year.
Receive the accounts and balance sheet for the previous year.
Reappoint a Management Committee.
Reappoint an Auditor.
The Management Committee.
Members of the Management Committee are usually elected at the Annual General Meeting. But could be elected anytime if a member came forward for a position.
There are 3 positions available – Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary.
The committee, on advice and recommendations received from outside agencies, Professionals, Honorary members and Staff, together with member/tenants decide operational matters at general meetings. Honorary members and Staff do not get a vote.
The day to day running of the Co-operative is by a part time Housing Manager, who answers to its Management Committee and consults with other agencies to deliver its services.
He is not your Landlord – He works for you.
He is an ex member/tenant and therefore an Honorary Member – He does not vote at meetings – thus avoiding any conflict of interests.
As a Fully Mutual Co-operative we are not allowed to grant Assured Shorthold Tenancies. We used to use a Licence Agreement for single people but since Feb 2013 we have been using a “Contractual Tenancy”.
7. EDUCATION, TRAINING AND SUPPORT
During our evolution we have met many people and organisations that have offered their help and support. In future we plan to use the resources available to organisations like us and participate in training courses.
We have designated a member to make sure we are aware of all current regulations regarding the running of the Co-operative and housing matters in general.
We have initially identified several courses we wish members to attend.
We realise that to achieve our aims we shall require a substantial amount of professional advice and guidance. We shall be seeking further people to help us in specific areas when required.
We would like to thank the following people for their continued support :-
1) Sally Kelly. – The Guild. – Matters concerning the running of the Co-op.
2) John Ward. – Price Bailey– Accounts and financial returns.
8. CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECK
To provide an extra level of service to our members and demonstrate our commitment and responsibility to the protection of vulnerable adults, Staff have undergone a Standard Criminal Records Disclosure to contain details of all convictions on the PNC. Further reading:- CRB Check.Doc
9. EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICY
We shall maintain a consistent awareness of all prejudices and their implications for us all as individuals and as part of the Housing Co-operative.
We shall work toward the elimination of discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, nationality, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, class, appearance, religion, previous debts, unrelated criminal convictions, or any other matter, which causes any person to be treated with injustice.
A person or group of people applying for housing, a job or for any other contracts with the Co-operative will be accepted on suitability and will not be treated less favourably because of any of the above.
10. HEALTH AND SAFETY POLICY
The Co-operative recognises its duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its members, employees and anyone doing work for the Co-operative.
The ultimate responsibility for health and safety decisions rests with the Co-operative and will be dealt with at General Meetings. The day-to-day responsibility implementation and monitoring will be with a designated member, who will act as the Health and Safety Coordinator.
Our Health and Safety Coordinator performs annual fire and risk assessments on all properties in June. Ace Fire carry out fire equipment checks in September. Gas servicing is carried out annually around December.
FIRE SAFETY AND SMOKING
We have undertaken the responsibility for fire safety.
All HMOs now comply to current legislation and are in accordance with the standards of fitness under section 352 of the Housing Act 1985.
There is a Dry powder extinguisher and a fire blanket in the kitchen of each property and also a Foam extinguisher on the upstairs landing.
These fire extinguishers are checked regularly and serviced once a year.
(They cost £35.00 to refill, are not a toy and should only be used in an emergency.)
We have suitable Heat Sensors and Smoke Alarms which are interlinked and mains supplied with battery back-up.
We have appointed the following company to supply and service our fire protection equipment and advise us of any changes in legislation.
Ace Fire, 14 Concorde Road, Vulcan Road Industrial Estate, Norwich, Norfolk.
We have also produced a leaflet of safety advice for our members and make sure all new members are aware of fire safety and what to do if fire breaks out.
Gas Certification is produced annually (by a Corgi registered fitter) a copy of the certificate is left at each property and a second copy with our H&S Officer.
Dave is our current Health, Safety / Fire assessment officer.
Further reading:- The Dangers of Fire.Doc
11. GREEN ISSUES
Willow was founded in 1984 by a group of people who wanted a more social form of housing, and one of their main priorities was to make Willow as ecologically and environmentally friendly as possible. This is a tradition that still continues, and we still consider environmental issues important both as a business and as individuals
We have identified possible ways of making the houses more energy efficient (Eg loft insulation, water treatment, Wind and Solar power) but as Co-operative funds are limited, we shall be seeking advice and funds from other agencies.
We encourage our members to be energy efficient, not to waste water and to recycle all waste materials.
We take this very seriously and warnings will be given for a failure to re-cycle.
PLASTICS PAPER AND CANS
Members must use Norwich City Councils blue bin re-cycling scheme, which is available to all properties.
Members must use Norwich City Councils green box re-cycling scheme, which is available to all properties.
We provide a composter for each house and Norwich City Council provide a food waste recycling scheme.
Members are encouraged to give old clothes to other members, take them to a charity shop or one of the textile banks provided by the Salvation Army.
Remaining (LANDFILL) waste should be placed in black bin bags and wheelie bins provided by N.C.C.
Verbal warnings. When a post-holder tells you there is a problem and something needs doing about it, this is considered a verbal warning.
Written warnings. Although 3 written warnings were designed and used for housing single people, written warnings could still be given.
However – Notice to quit would be given according to the terms on your Tenancy Agreement.
Written warnings are no-longer part of your Tenancy Agreement.
P.S. most warnings used to be over rent arrears or disturbance due to noise.
Only half of our properties are suitable for a pet :-
A 4 bed on Shorncliffe Ave.
And a ground floor 3 bed on Heathgate.
However the Contractual Tenancy does now include a right to have pets.
15. Succession and Lodgers.
Tenants now have a right to take in a Lodger if they have a spare room (unless this creates a need for HMO Licensing) and to pass on their Tenancy (via succession) to other family members..
16. AN END NOTE
The current financial crisis has added to the homeless situation, re-possessions are on the increase and Britain also has a housing shortage. This combination of events has pushed up the price of accommodation resulting in many people at least once in their lives experiencing homelessness. This often happens after the breakdown of a relationship, the end of a work contract, an illness or a detrimental change in financial circumstances.
For many people the homelessness experience is about survival on a basic level.
There is a known order in these survival needs:- Food, Shelter, Family, Tribe and finally Society. If these basic human needs are not met by society there is often a decline in an individual and possible depression and solace in drink or drugs.
We would like to catch people before a habit becomes a physical dependency thus avoiding the resulting mental trauma that this brings
By providing accommodation, a sense of community and incentives for involvement in a democracy we can help people back into the society they felt ignored, rejected or disillusioned by.
An individual can feel strength from the synergy involved in being part of a Co-op, empowered due to finally having some control over their lives, and possibly inspired to move on and do something different.
Occasionally people do enter Willow Housing without a sense of their own rules, and fail to work within ours, they will be given warnings but if they fail to act in a Co-operative manner they do not belong within a Co-operative and will be told to leave.
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