The foundations for Gwalia’s flagship £3.3m Old Oak housing cooperative has been cemented in Carmarthen.
Gwalia and Carmarthenshire County Council have been working in partnership for several months to prepare the ground for the flagship Old Oak Housing Co-operative in Johnstown, Carmarthen.
The initiative officially became a reality when cooperative members cut the turf to kick-start the development on Monday, September 28th.
Not for profit housing and social care provider Gwalia is working in partnership with the Council and the Wales Co-operative Centre to deliver one of three Welsh Government housing co-operative pilots.
Housing co-operatives are groups of people who live in and collectively manage their accommodation – from shared houses, to blocks of flats, to entire housing estates. This can involve taking responsibility for arranging repairs, making decisions about rent and who joins or leaves the co-operative. Contractor Morganstone has started to build the 27, two, three and four bedroom homes on land off Bro Myrrydin in Carmarthen.
Old Oak Housing Co-operative founder member Jeff Harris said the development is like a dream come true.
“We have been involved every step of the way. Gwalia’s development team have brought our vision to reality. Members were asked what the development should be called so we call took a vote. Old Oak was chosen to reflect local history but also to show that from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.”
Andrew Vye, Gwalia’s Director of Housing and Support, said that the co-op members will continue to take decision about Old Oak, deciding themselves how the properties are managed rather than Gwalia.
“Living in a housing co-operative can be a good way to access affordable housing and may give tenants becoming part of a Housing Co-operative more control over their homes.
“The interest we received from families who wanted to be founder members of the Old Oak Housing Co-operative was very reassuring. Gwalia is delighted to have been given the opportunity to pilot the use of co-operative models as an additional affordable housing option for people in Wales.”
David Palmer, Manager at Wales Co-operative Centre, has been working with Gwalia staff and the members to develop the Carmarthen scheme. He said:
“It is clear that co-operative housing has an important role to play in increasing the provision of affordable housing and creating safe and democratic communities. The official ‘turf cutting’ for Co-op marks an important milestone on the road to making the pioneering co-operative housing schemes a reality.
“The Wales Co-operative Centre has been delighted to work in partnership with Gwalia Group, Carmarthenshire and the ‘founder member’ prospective residents, to take this development forward. We will continue to work with all the other pioneer schemes, as a start on site is made on one of the first new co-operative homes in Wales.”
Managing Director of Morganstone Ian Morgan said:
“Morganstone are proud to be working in partnership with Gwalia on the Old Oak Housing Co-operative pilot project that supports the Welsh Governments initiative to promote co-operative housing schemes and increase the supply of affordable, high quality homes within Wales.
“We look forward to laying the first building block on site and working alongside the stakeholders and ‘founder member’ prospective residents throughout the development of this ground-breaking scheme.”
Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, said: “I am pleased the Welsh Government has been able to provide over £850,000 towards this innovative scheme, which is breaking new ground in the co-operative movement in Wales. Co-operative housing plays an important role in increasing the availability of affordable housing and gives members more control over the day to day running of the development. Today is a significant milestone and I wish members well as work progresses.”
Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Housing, Councillor Linda Evans. said:
“We are one of the first local authorities in Wales to look at co-operative housing. Our housing team has been proactive in looking for solutions for people who have an income but struggle to find a large mortgage deposit. Co-operative housing is one of these solutions that will provide local people with a real alternative.”
Pictured from left to right: Tracey Healy, Gwalia’s Executive Director for Corporate Services, Kate Sinclair, Gwalia’s Senior Project Manager, Ian Morgan Managing Director of Morganstone Ltd, Jeff Harris, Founder Member of the Old Oak Housing Co-operative, Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Housing Councillor Linda Evans, Leader of Carmarthenshire Council Emlyn Doyle and Gwalia Trust Vice-president Ray Singh