Housing cooperatives

Housing cooperatives are similar to housing associations, but are jointly owned and run by their tenants. This page explains how housing co-ops work and what you need do to apply.

What is a housing cooperative?

Housing cooperatives are similar to housing associations, in that they offer rented accommodation in city centres, housing estates and rural areas. Like housing associations, they are also known as 'registered social landlords' (RSLs), which means they register with the Scottish Housing Regulator.

Housing cooperatives are jointly owned and run by their tenants. This means that the tenants take responsibility for arranging repairs, making decisions about rent and who joins or leaves the co-op. Living in a housing cooperative can be a good way to get affordable housing and may give you more control over where you live.

Like housing associations, some housing co-ops cater for people with special needs, or for certain groups such as older people in need of sheltered housing.

How do I get a home?

If you would like a place in a housing cooperative there are two things you should do:

  • apply to the council's waiting list and ask to be nominated for vacancies in housing cooperatives
  • ask the council for a list of local housing cooperatives and then contact them directly.

Some housing co-ops also accept referrals from other organisations, such as homeless hostels.

Ask the council if there is a common housing register for your area. This is a joint waiting list for housing from the council and also from housing associations and cooperatives in your area. Joining a common housing register has two advantages:

  • It saves you time and trouble, as you won't have to make separate applications to the council and to all the individual housing associations and co-ops in your area.
  • It increases your chances of getting accommodation.

How is housing co-op accommodation allocated?

Waiting lists

Once you have submitted your application for housing from a cooperative, your name will be added to a waiting list. Like council and housing association waiting lists, housing co-op waiting lists do not work on a 'first come, first served' basis. Instead, applicants are prioritised according to how much they need a new home. For example, housing co-ops will prioritise people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, and people whose current homes are not suitable for them to live in.

Different housing co-ops may prioritise different groups of people. However, housing co-ops, like councils and housing associations, must publish the rules by which they prioritise applicants, so when you apply for housing from a co-op, you should ask to see the rules first.

Read the sections on applying for housing and allocation policies, which explain how the application process works and how councils, housing associations and housing co-ops decide who will have priority on their waiting lists.

Co-op membership

The only difference between getting a tenancy from the council or a housing association and getting a tenancy from a housing co-op is that, in order to get a housing co-op tenancy, you must be a member of the co-op. This usually costs just £1. If your application for membership is turned down, you can appeal using the co-op's internal complaints procedure. If that fails, you can also make a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman or the Scottish Housing Regulator. The page on challenging allocation decisions has more information on how to go about doing this.

What are my rights as a housing co-op tenant?

If you rent from a housing co-op, you will either be a Scottish secure tenant or, in certain circumstances, a short Scottish secure tenant. Scottish secure tenants have strong tenancy rights, as well as rights to repairs and to pass on their tenancy to other members of their family.

Can I set up my own housing cooperative?

If you are a council or housing association tenant, you may be able to set up a housing cooperative or Tenant Management Committee (TMC) yourself. You'll need a certain number of other people to get involved, as well as help with the legal aspects of setting it up. And, although it will be rewarding, it will require hard work and long term commitment. Read the guidance from the Scottish Government to find out more.

The important points

  • Housing co-operatives are jointly owned and run by their tenants. They offer rented accommodation and are registered with the Scottish Housing Register.
  • Some housing co-operatives focus on certain groups of tenants, for example tenants with special support needs or older people who they provide with sheltered housing.
  • You can apply directly to the housing co-operative or if your area has a common housing register you might apply to council and housing associations and co-operatives by submitting one application.
  • Like councils and housing associations, co-operatives prioritise some applications over others, for example people who are homeless.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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