Improved mental wellbeing and a better quality of life – new research reveals the benefits of living in co-operative or community-led housing

New research released by Wales Co-operative Centre, with support from the Nationwide Foundation, has found that residents experience improved mental wellbeing and happiness as well as skills development from living in co-operative and community led housing (CCLH) schemes.

Over 50 residents from 22 community-led housing schemes across Wales and England were interviewed, as well as a further 14 staff from nine of the CCLH providers. The key benefits that residents highlighted were:

• Residents felt less isolated, being surrounded by a supportive network
• Improved mental wellbeing and happiness
• A better quality of life with the potential for skills development and increased levels of confidence, as well as a better financial situation
• Wider benefits to the community including a reduction in antisocial behaviour and greater community collaboration

With more than 30 schemes already in place across Wales, communities can be created for various purposes and shared visions. Where some schemes have been created to make housing more affordable for residents, others have been developed for people who want an improved lifestyle and support network.

One CCLH resident summarised the benefits they have seen: “There is a sense of pride; empowered individuals; there is self-esteem and confidence in tenants; getting things done, no red tape; resolving social and relationship issues; some friendships have been built for life.”

Another resident said: “I have found a very supportive community of fellow housemates, receiving support during a period of illness and subsequently helping new members to find their feet in the household.”

Wales Co-operative Centre has been supporting and championing the growth of community-led housing since 2012 and is delivering the Communities Creating Homes programme to further stimulate demand for CCLH throughout Wales. With three years funding from the Nationwide Foundation and two years from the Welsh Government, the Wales Co-operative Centre has designed a programme that will work with communities and organisations to deliver more affordable housing for people in need.

Gary Hartin, the Nationwide Foundation’s Programme Manager, said: “We’re incredibly pleased to have funded this much-needed piece of work. We’ve been enabling co-operative and community-led housing since 2013 and this type of housing is going from strength to strength in Wales. It’s very useful to now have evidence of the wider benefits of living in a scheme, including health and wellbeing. We certainly hope that this will persuade other communities to consider taking forward a scheme in their area, whether in Wales or the rest of the United Kingdom, as well as convincing decision-makers of the wider benefits and value of co-operative and community-led housing.”

Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James AM, said: “The Welsh Government remains very committed to community-led housing in Wales, which enables the community to be integrally involved in decision making about their homes. I have been overwhelmed in hearing the benefits residents gain from living in community-led housing. The difference tenants feel in terms of improved skills, increased confidence and improved mental well-being to name but a few – demonstrates why community-led housing can, and should be part of the solution to the housing crisis we face here in Wales.