Key learnings

Wider social and economic benefits of co-operative housing

A study undertaken of the Social Value of Co-operative Housing18 identified a range of social and economic benefits achieved from affordable housing provided by community housing organisations, including co-operatives, in Australia to both members and governments. Providing safe, affordable and secure housing creates the following benefits for members:

Financial: Greater financial flexibility for low-income households as a result of lower rents and more disposable income. This disposable income not only benefits members, having more money to pay for food, education, transport and those unexpected expenses, but also means tenants have money to spend in the local economy. 

Educational: Co-operative housing tenants are more likely to pursue educational or training opportunities that will improve their employment prospects. Their children also have enhanced education opportunities. Co-operative housing further builds the education and skills of tenants due to the participatory nature of co-operatives where members are actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the co-operative.

Health: Improved overall health and reduced demand for health services for ‘heavy users” and disabled populations. A survey of co-operative housing residents found that 70 per cent of respondents believed their health had improved since moving into co-operative housing.

Community Inclusion: Greater tenant empowerment enables co-operative housing residents to have more control of their personal lives and receive support from networks which foster self-reliant and independent communities. Co-operative housing further builds on community inclusion, social capital and empowerment through the participatory nature of co-operatives where members are involved day-to-day decision making.

Reducing wider housing stress: A substantial co-operative presence in a housing market, offering good quality, affordable secure long term housing products could ultimately put downwards pressure on market house prices. 

“I entered co-operative housing 14 years ago as a single mum with two daughters. It provided the opportunity to get an education and improve the prospects for my children and me”

Yvonne, Endeavour CERC

Case study: Lakewood

Lakewood is a joint project with CEHL and Eastern Access Community Health (EACH), with funding support through the Australian Government. The Lakewood Community Managed Co-operative (CMC) was established to provide housing for low to moderate income individuals with a desire to live in apartment-style housing. The tenant members include a mix of people on low incomes, people with mental illness and other disabilities, refugees, Indigenous people, the elderly and unemployed people.  Since opening its doors to tenants in March 2011, Lakewood has accommodated 158 residents across 80 apartment units19.

To determine the value of Lakewood to tenant members and government, a social return of investment (SROI) was calculated. For every dollar invested in Lakewood Community Managed Co-operative creates an additional $3.78 – this equates to almost $3m over five years19.

The largest contributors of value

 The study found that key outcomes achieved for tenant members are:

  • Improved financial sustainability
  • Improved personal health outcomes
  • Increased employment readiness
  • Increased sense of security
  • Positive educational outcomes
  • Increased community inclusion

For government, the Lakewood development delivered a financial return in the form of reduced cost of child support services, reduced costs of medical services and by reducing public housing waiting lists.

“Before I came here … I wasn’t living, I was just existing basically, whereas now all these things are going on”

Lakewood resident

“because of the support they have around them, they have been able to grow in themselves, build more confidence in themselves and realise they are the great people we know them to be, and they are able to see that in their own eyes.”

Lakewood resident

“In the past they would’ve been on their own…struggling and in a hospital somewhere, whereas here, we are not talking about professional help. But people like neighbours looking after each other”

EACH staff

“I’d say the best moments are the friendships that have developed in the building, people have grown closer, the laughter in the building has been fantastic”

Lakewood resident