What is a co-op

A co-operative is a group of people coming together to work collaboratively towards the common needs and aspirations of its members, sharing control of their environment and making decisions democratically. Across the world there are many types of co-operatives such as housing, building, retailer, utility, worker, credit unions, social, consumer, agricultural and political. The emphasis on shared values and principles and support for its own members gives co-operatives a unique character.

What is a housing co-op

Housing co-ops are groups of people who live in and collectively manage their accommodation. This involves taking responsibility for such things as arranging repairs, making decisions about rent and who joins or leaves the co-op. There are different types of co-operatives:

  • Tenant management co-operatives
  • Tenant ownership co-operatives
  • Short-life housing co-operatives
  • Self build co-operatives

Balfour Street Housing Project (BSHP) is a tenant management co-operative, which means that we are a democratic organisation formed by a group of tenants who take on the management of their homes. We have a management agreement with a housing association who owns the properties and for whom we act as a managing agent. We receive a management allowance from the housing association that enables us to run the co-op, in our case, on a voluntary basis.

BSHP is also a “fully mutual” housing co-op, which means that all of the tenants are required to be members of the co-op, and our governance structure consist entirely of tenant members.

Find out more about how BHSP membership works

Balfour Street Housing Project also adheres to the 7 Co-operative Principles* – guidelines by which we put our values into practice.

Co-operative values

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Co-operative principles

  1. Voluntary and open membership

    Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

  2. Democratic member control

    Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

  3. Member economic participation

    Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

  4. Autonomy and independence

    Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

  5. Education, training and information

    Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

  6. Co-operation among co-operatives

    Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

  7. Concern for community

    Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

*Source taken from International co-operative alliance