Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.


Rochdale Boroughwide Housing

Inclusive Housing & Public Space

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

Rochdale Bouroughwide Housing (RBH) was originally an 'arms length management organisation', responsible for managing 13,500 homes across Rochdale area. The homes themselves. were owned by the municipality.

The challenge faced was how to provide high quality and affordable social housing, and to ensure long-term financial sustainability, whilst at the same time giving residents and workers greater collective control over the management of their own housing.

These challenges area taking place in a context in which the municipalities are under increasing financial stress, whilst houses are increasingly treated as commodities rather than social goods. In the UK, the 'Right to Buy' scheme - which was introduced in 1980 - resulted in the loss of over 3.3million homes from the social housing sector.

What has changed?

The membership of the organisation has been growing steadily since its conceptition. As of 2017, 4,484 out of the 15,364 individuals living in RBH properties have joined as members as well as 503 out of 681 employees. The organisation has series of community engagement projects designed to increase participation and membership as well as a series of promises to the tenants to prove the value of their work to the local community.

The Board of Directors, who are responsible for the overall management and a Representative Body, are elected mainly by the membership, are also responsible for setting the strategy and direction. Some residents in RBH have suggested that there is remains a democratic deficit within the organisation, and that decision-making processes could still be improved.

As part of the transition to cooperative ownership RHB created a series of promises to their tenants around 11 key themes. According to 2017’s end of year report they have made good progress, having spent £19 million on housing upgrades (double glazing etc.), building 79 new homes, finding funding for a further 99 new homes and creating a value for money commitment that ensure improvement of services, financial stability and transparency in costs.

The organisation is operating at a profit with a total comprehensive income of £12,863,000 for the year ending 31st March 2017.

How did it happen?

In 2009, Rochdale council established a commmission tasked with exploring future funding and governance options for the local authority's social housing stock. The commissions final recommendation was to explore an asset transfer to a new form of 'mutual' organisation, comprised of both tenants and employees. The vision is based on co-ownership, with tenants and employees as equal members, to build into the fabric of the organisation a sense of shared priorities and working together.

The new 'mutual' model was implemented in 2013 as the UK’s first tenant and employee co-owned mutual housing society, after the tenants of the local authority’s council houses voted in favour (76%) of transferring the ownership of the properties over to a cooperative.

RBH was founded as a cooperative and community benefit society to reflect the organisations desire to operate for the common good. In this form, assets are securely held (locked) for the benefit of current and future generations and surpluses are retained and recycled to achieve their objectives. This prevents homes from being sold for private gain.