Students in the UK are coughing up an average of £69 per week to live in what are often tiny rooms in rented properties. This cost has been steadily increasing over the past few decades and most cities now have a student area in which houses kitted out with as many bedrooms as possible are hawked out to students often unaware of the rules and regulations that lettings agents are supposed to abide by.
Students such as Michaela Christofi, one of our colleagues and a Birmingham University graduate, have found their houses neglected regardless of the extortionate rents they hand over to their landlords. ‘When our cellar was flooded with more than a foot of water in autumn, we asked our landlord to sort it out,’ Michaela told me. ‘After his visit, he reassured us: “It’s all sorted out now.” We found out after returning from Christmas that “sorted” meant locking the door down and pretending there wasn’t a festering lake underneath the house. No attempt was made at resolving the problem at all.’ Stories like this can be heard in most universities across the country, and the problem has gone largely unchallenged.
Problems with rented properties and private landlords are not restricted to students; they extend throughout the rented property sector. Shelter reports that more than one in five families are now living in rented properties after a 72 per cent expansion in the number of privately-rented properties since 2001. Around 30 per cent of those families have experienced problems with their property or letting agents, while 72 per cent struggle with rents.
It’s clear a solution to renting property is needed by many people across the UK, not just students. We believe the problem lies not just with unscrupulous landlords or letting agents, but rather with the idea of private property rental in the first place. Landlords are in the business of owning land and property, and making their money by renting it to those who can’t afford to buy their own.
Our co-op will mean that the landlord’s profit can instead go towards improving our housing and reducing our rent. We will still pay a company, BCHS, for maintenance, repairs and help to manage our tenancies, but because of our status as members of the business that owns the property we will value our housing more and be directly in control of the rent, what gets mended and by whom.
We plan to purchase two terraced properties with five beds each. These will be co-owned by students, who will be both members directly in control of the business, Birmingham Students Housing Cooperative, and tenants of the properties. Essentially we are attempting to make housing more affordable by removing landlords from the equation – eliminating what Marx dubbed the ‘parasitic class’.
The residents will change regularly, with people moving out when their degrees are finished. Priority will be given to those who have an interest in promoting the co-operative model and are most in need of affordable housing. This will allow a large number of people to experience living in the houses and build a community over the years until eventually the mortgage is paid off. A future set of residents will then be able to make a decision to either expand the co-op or lower rents further. If the co-op were to fail, no student would be held liable for more than £1 as the business is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee.
Our plans are just a small part of a growing student co-operative movement. Discussions have been held in Edinburgh, Warwick, Sussex and Leeds, with more groups and interested students getting together across the country with the intention of creating co-ops. June 2013 saw the initial gathering of a national network, Students for Co‑operation, with the intention to set up a support mechanism for emerging co-op groups and help them get their businesses off the ground. There is a real chance that adopting the co-operative model is something that could support students at a time when rising debt and high costs are discouraging increasing numbers of students from pursuing qualifications in higher education.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank