Rent levels, and financing the renovation of the buildings.

 

The only income that the co-op receives is the rent from its members. In the future, we hope to have our land and buildings sorted enough to host events and gatherings, teaching and workshops, but this potential income is at least a few years off, while we get the company working as a housing provider.  We all pay at least £215 per calendar month as rent and a further £30-£50 each on bills.  That doesn't include food, though we do share large wholefood orders and some of us grow some of our own.

 

To be a member of the co-op means that you will have to work as hard to maintain the buildings as if you owned them. We aren’t the cheapest place to live, but we do care about accessibility, so the current rent levels have been set bearing in mind the benefits available from Herefordshire County Council. You could be entirely “on benefits” and live here, but it is unlikely that this is the most sensible place for you to live, if you don't have any income at all. We spend some of our own time and energy processing our firewood, and many of us also put time, effort and even money into growing some food.  The shared house also buy bottled gas for cooking. 

 

The co-op's money - the rent - only goes into the fabric of the buildings.  The co-op does own a lot of tools, machines, furniture etc too, but when these need replacement or repair it often comes out of our own pockets.  The "grey area" is boundary management - our walls, fences and hedges are a fair expense for the Property Management Company too.

 

Rent Levels

Rent levels are set by the co-op members at meetings. We take three things into account: the housing benefit levels in the local area, our business plan which we have used to borrow money and the type of accommodation you are taking on. We don’t have rent holidays. The way this works out at the moment, is that we all pay at least £240 a month. Some of us pay more to use more space privately. We all have access to a lot of communal space too.

 

 

 

Earthworm is a unique and beautiful place. It is not as cheap a place to live as most housing co-ops, but the rent is well below the average for this area of the country. You get different facilities, and more control over them for your rent, than in more ordinary homes.

 

A great draw for housing co-ops, is that the legal entity we have set up to manage our home, can borrow much more money than we would be able to as individuals, and this debt is tied to the co-op, not to us as individuals.  In the future, we might raise more loan stock to invest in Solar panels or further renovation.

 

 

Space

 

Rent Level

Shared House Rooms

£215 to £270 depending on size of room

Static Caravan

£240

1 bedroom flat

£385

2 bedroom flat (main house)

£495

2 bedroom flat (stable block)

£465

 

 

 

Financing the Renovation of Buildings

The housing co-op issued £40,000 loan stock in April-July 2014 and has taken on a £260,000, long term mortgage in order to pay for the renovation and alterations to the buildings.

 

The repayments of this borrowing will be made using rents. We have to have a minimum of 8 people paying rent to make the minimum amount of money to cover the basic running costs of the co-op and repayments of loans. Extra money we raise when we have more than 8 co-op members goes towards our long term maintenance funds for the roof, heating system, windows and to cover anything else which drops off the buildings unexpectedly!  The special thing about being a co-op when we take on this level of debt, is that it is the co-op which does this, not us as individuals.

 

The pay-back time we're committed to is 20 years.

 

We also talked about the idea of using human capital/rent offset as a way of reducing the financial risk, but that has been disasterous for this co-op in the past, (large DIY-errors), so we have quite rigorous budgeting, purchasing and planning procedures to follow.

 

As a co-op, we are an evolving, flexible thing, and if you become part of the hive mind, you will of course have influence on the way we sort out the property; but paying back the mortgage (and not losing the buildings) and paying back the loanstock (and not losing the confidence that local people and distant mates have in us) are going to be top priority for a long time to come.