Friday, 23 October 2015
Digital Co-operative Housing in Wales
Further to the One Big Housing Conference 2015 in Llandrindod Wells where the Wales Co-operative Centre exhibited and Dave Brown, our Director of Communities and Inclusion, ran a session on ‘Meeting the Skills Gap’, I’m ‘Identifying the Opportunity within a Challenge’ by demonstrating the use of digital inclusion within co-operative housing across Wales.
The Centre has been supporting the development of co-operative housing across Wales for three years which has grown from eight ‘pioneers’ to nearly thirty schemes. Forty-one of these social rented homes are now occupied in Cardiff, where the Home Farm Village housing co-operative members communicate through a closed Facebook site and photos are tweeted by Cadwyn HA, who helped develop the scheme. Some of the residents hadn’t used social media before so being part of the group, and with the support of other co-operative members, their participation and skills have increased which demonstrates the power of formal and informal volunteering. They now resolve issues and keep each other informed about suppliers, service providers, refuse collection and anti-social behaviour, through Facebook.
The Wales Co-operative Centre also has a strong track record in the area of digital inclusion. It is currently delivering the Digital Communities Wales project for Welsh Government. The Centre has been helping communities get online since 2005 and was the lead delivery partner of the Welsh Government’s Communities@One and Communities 2.0 projects, both funded by the European Union. The Centre has extensive experience of developing and implementing co-operative solutions to strengthen communities and promote inclusion.
Recent statistics show that 56% of social housing tenants have broadband access compared to 78% of the total population. The aim is for 100% of co-operative residents to be digitally included. One way in which this is being achieved is by tenants using social media, as a platform that brings people together.
In Merthyr Tydfil, ‘Taf Fechan’ Housing co-op has recently set up a Facebook page and website. They have free wi-fi in all flats and hope to carry out most of their training and business electronically. They also tweet - @Taffechancoop.
There are other good examples of this all over Wales. In Newport, where nineteen leasehold shared-ownership homes are currently being built, members communicate through a closed Facebook site and also have a public page. There will be opportunities in future to market available properties through social media.
In Carmarthenshire, founder members of a site that has twenty-seven ‘Intermediate Rent’ homes also have a closed and public Facebook page. Members have chosen the co-op’s logo, street names and internal finishes for the homes through the Facebook page. Training presentations are uploaded to the Facebook site for members that can’t make any of the regular meetings. An emerging group in Powys uses Facebook as they start to engender interest.
Further North, in Wrexham, a small self-build housing co-op has both a website and Facebook site. They have gone public online with the website and have already accumulated over 300 likes on Facebook. They are getting some great messages of support from local community and from those already working on sustainable projects.
There is a large Community Land Trust in Pembrokeshire, which is establishing a website that links into the local community council’s website. In Swansea there is a small established housing co-op that also has a Facebook presence.
All of this not only shows the power of social media, but it provides a great opportunity to help people do more online as they develop housing co-operatives – a win-win as far as we’re concerned. The development and interconnection of all these co-ops across would not be possible without social media and the support of the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Confederation of Co-operative Housing.
Dave Palmer, Wales Co-operative Centre