Organisation to hand reins to tenants in move backed by the housing minister
Gloucester ALMO to form first COCO
An arm’s-length management organisation is set to become the first to put its tenants in control under a new management model that has won the backing of the housing minister.
Gloucester City Homes, working with Gloucester Council, is set to become the first ‘community owned, council owned’ organisation, after consulting tenants, who will vote on the move later this year.
Known as a COCO, it would be able to attract private investment to maintain and improve the council stock and could set a precedent for the rest of the sector offering an alternative option to going back in-house, stock transfer or the status quo.
Representatives from the ALMO and the council had a meeting with Grant Shapps last month, and he was reportedly ‘positive’ about the move.
The new 4,800-home body would be owned in three equal parts by the council, tenants, and independent members from within the community.
From April, public sector borrowing will be limited by changes to council housing finance, but as less than 50 per cent of the COCO would be council owned it would no longer be a public body so could approach banks.
The council will retain the £2.1 million debt that it will take on in April as part of the overhaul of the housing subsidy system, but this will be paid off by the COCO using money from rents over 30 years.
Lewisham Council and Durham Council are also considering adopting a COCO model for their ALMOs.
Ashley Green, chief executive of Gloucester City Homes, said there were some points of clarification still to iron out, but he hoped to get the COCO up and running later this year.
‘The COCO model is the best organisation in terms of securing private finance to invest in the existing stock,’ he added.
Gwyneth Taylor, policy director at the National Federation of ALMOs, said: ‘Hopefully, if Gloucester is successful, others will follow and it will not only provide additional investment for council housing in the future, but more involvement with tenants as well.’
Eileen Short, chair of Defend Council Housing, said: ‘As a private organisation you don’t have a landlord that you can democratically hold to account about fixed-term tenancies or 80 per cent rents. These become critical questions for future tenants in Gloucester.’
In numbers: Gloucester City Homes
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secured a three-star ‘excellent’ rating from the Audit Commission