Executive Summary

Australia is in the grip of a housing affordability crisis that threatens to lock a generation out of affordable housing. To address this will require fresh thinking which expands our horizons from traditional models of housing – home ownership, private rental and public housing.

We have seen how the co-operative model can address failures of the market and deliver services of public value in an efficient and responsive way. It makes sense to apply the principles of co-operation to address the shortcomings of our housing market.

The co-operative approach to housing creates a unique relationship where the tenant members work together to run their co-op as a group are often also their landlord. This means that the tenants themselves are more than just consumers – they have a stake in the shared value created by the cooperative.

In a housing co-operative tenant members play a key role in not just the day-to-day activities of the organisation but also in its management, governance and strategic direction.

While the non-profit community housing sector has a key role to play in the delivery of subsidised housing as part of a wider housing programme, it is a co-operative approach to social housing that addresses not only the physical needs of people experiencing housing stress, but also their economic and social needs. Co-operative housing inherently avoids the devastating and costly health impacts of isolation associated with traditional housing models.

Since being established in the 1980s, Common Equity Housing has grown into one of the nation’s largest providers of social housing. It is an exemplar of:

  • efficient use of public resources;
  • community empowerment and capacity building;
  • participation in decision-making by the people who are the beneficiaries of the service; and
  • innovation in the delivery and financing of affordable housing.

At the heart of CEHL’s success is its unique model which aggregates the power of 111 separate co-operatives which are dedicated to working within their local communities. This ensures that the delivery of housing is connected to those who need it, but that resources are shared and pooled for the benefit of meeting members changing housing needs over time.

CEHL offers more than just housing, it’s also building stronger, more inclusive communities where members look out for each other.