SEASALT Housing Co-operative – which stands for South EAst Students Autonomously Living Together – have been awarded a grant of £40,266 through Homes England’s Community Housing Fund. This grant will go towards professional fees, such as architect fees, planning costs, site surveys and other costs associated with getting the project off the ground.
The student-led group has also been awarded a grant of £15,000 through the Reach Fund, a grant programme that helps charities and social enterprises raise investment. The programme is funded by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment.
The University of Sussex has also pledged £10,000 to back the SEASALT project.
Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust (BHCLT) is working in partnership with SEASALT to develop the first student housing co-operative in the city. It will be home to up to 18 students and young people paying affordable rents. The SEASALT student group are being supported by BHCLT as part of its Community-Led Housing Programme, supported by Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC). BHCLT is a non-profit community-led organisation, registered as a Community Benefit Society.
BHCLT is taking responsibility for securing the property and refurbishing it. They are also securing the finances through a mixture of mortgage and other loans, and SEASALT is working with them to secure loans and donations through crowd-funding. Once complete, BHCLT will transfer responsibility for managing the home to the SEASALT Housing Co-operative members through a lease. The plan is for students to move in for the start of the academic year in September 2019.
Anyone with an interest in investing in the SEASALT project is encouraged to get in touch with BHCLT on firstname.lastname@example.org. Loanstock is often used by co-operatives to raise finance and it is a good opportunity for investors as interest rates are more attractive than those offered by the banks.
Why a student housing co-operative?
Brighton & Hove has two universities (Sussex & Brighton) which helps to create a vibrant city community, but housing is a big issue for the student population which is significantly higher than in other English cities. Demand on current housing stock means that many students have no choice when it comes to poor quality housing.
First year students in Brighton & Hove are not guaranteed accommodation in halls of residence. Between 2015 and 2017 over 500 students ended up sofa-surfing or being put up in hotels until they could find adequate accommodation.
SEASALT will manage the housing and it will be open to students from any university in the city, who are over 18 years old. All co-operative members are tenants and all tenants are members of the co-operative. Residents will be able to stay for one additional year after graduation to ensure skills and knowledge are transferred across generations of students, and to support their transitions to post university life.
These longer tenancies will improve community cohesion as tenants have time to get to know their neighbours and can undertake longer term projects, such as garden maintenance, which are often overlooked when students do not own the property and move every year. With a greater sense of ownership on the property, members can invest in the long-term improvement of the house, whilst committed to being environmentally sustainable.
There are already successful student housing co-operatives in Edinburgh, Sheffield and Birmingham. On average, 10% of the European population live in housing co-operatives. This is a well-established sector with a long history of providing good quality housing at lower than market rates.
The objective of this project is to deliver an innovative model of housing for students and young people that need affordable rents.
One of SEASALT’s student members said: “I joined SEASALT because I have been a supporter of co-operative organisations for a long time, and after experiencing the stress of finding affordable housing in Brighton I started searching for alternatives. A high-quality, stable and affordable living environment is vital for student wellbeing. I am hoping to see student housing co-operatives thrive and become the norm across Brighton. With SEASALT we are starting small but aiming big!
"It bothers me that renting to students is seen as a way of making a profit off of young people who tend to be less informed and less likely to invest in the long-term improvement of their homes. This funding is the first step to us being able to regain control over our housing conditions in a way that cares for the wellbeing of students and the environment. Housing that's not for profit is vital in order to help alleviate the artificial inflation of student housing and the property market in Brighton more widely.”
Martyn Holmes, a Director of Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust (BHCLT) said: “SEASALT will be offering affordable housing that meets students’ needs, as well as helping them develop new skills and play an active role in their local community. Too often students in Brighton & Hove end up living in expensive and poor-quality housing and SEASALT will be showing an alternative is possible. We are really proud to back such an important project for our region.”
Concerned about the housing crisis? Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust is open to new members. It is just £1 to join. Find out more about community-led housing, set up your own project, or lend your time or money. More information: bhclt.org.uk/membership