By Filiz Emily Gurer, News Editor
An initiative to launch Bristol’s first student housing co-operative has got underway after raising sufficient funds to cover the costs of establishing itself as a legal entity.
The group’s fundraiser page, which launched on Wednesday, has surpassed its initial target of £450, which is necessary in order to cover the costs of registration fees and for the legal procedure for the co-op to become a limited company.
The group of students from the University of Bristol, which includes the SU’s Living Officer, Ruth Day, are setting up the co-operative in an effort ‘to provide democratic, not-for-profit housing for students in Bristol.’
The funds raised so far by the Bristol Student Housing Co-Op will also be used towards other set-up costs, such as graphic design and promotional materials.
Housing co-operatives run as not-for profit organisations and are an alternative in the accommodation market to commercial rentals.
Housing co-ops enable residents to set their own rents, by acting as both the tenants and landlords.
Student housing co-ops are being set up in other University towns and cities, where students take on the role of landlords and as a result have a direct say in their living conditions.
There are currently three other established student housing co-operatives: in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield.
The students founding the Bristol co-operative held meetings early in the year, and intended for a launch in March, which was eventually pushed back due to Coronavirus.
Anna Lart Greene, one of the three founding members of the group, told Epigram: ‘rents in Bristol – particularly student rents – are completely out of line with what people actually have to spend’.
‘Most people are spending their entire loan just on their housing costs and have to rely on family or part-time work.
‘That's not how it was for most people's parents who went to University and who were able to focus solely on their degree.
‘We are seeing a massive decline in student mental health and I think the stress of housing and renting and having to work alongside your degree are some major contributing factors to that.’
‘The point of a housing cooperative is that you don't have any landlords because we think the problem with renting is that it is based on a relationship between a tenant which just sees a business opportunity, and tries to generate as much profit as possible.
‘If you don't have a landlord, if it's a group of people living in the house, you decide what happens to the house and what the rent is.’
‘The rent has to cover the mortgage repayment once you've secured the house, so there is a basis on what you have to set the rent at, but you're not operating for-profit, it is purely to pay the bills.’
The group also argues the co-operative model would be something that improves cohesion between students and the local communities and will ‘encourage people to feel more settled in the community and more integrated.’
Anna stated that the next step for the Bristol student co-op is for the group to establish itself as a legal entity.
She said: ‘once we've done that, that's when we can start working. We will then need to get loans from other larger co-operatives and organizations so we can put them down as a deposit for a mortgage.’
Acknowledging the quick success of the group in meeting its fundraising target, Anna said: ‘I think we have done a really good job of establishing ourselves and raising our profile already. We [are] building a network here, which is really, really important.’
Featured: Bristol Student Housing Co-Op / Tom Taylor
Would you be interested in living in a student housing co-operative?