Published: 03 December 2012
Extracted chapter from Griffiths, David (Ed.) Co-operators - Co-operation and Co-operatives, Southeast Housing Co-operative Ltd, 2012, pp 28-29.
Way back in 1996 I knew I was in financial strife. I was paying more than 55% of my Centrelink Sole Parent payment on the rented property housing myself and my two children aged 7 and 14. This large portion of my limited funds had implications on the rest of my household budgeting.
My kids grew up having ‘Not I want days!’ where we would catch the bus to our local shopping centre on a mission to only buy school shoes and nothing more … no more ‘I want!’
I mentioned my concerns to a friend, about having to move house again, as my daughter had spent Prep in one school and Grade one at another and it looked like we’d have to move as we just could not keep paying that kind of rent, and my daughter loved her school. She suggested I find a housing co-operative. Next thing I saw was an ‘Information session’ for a cooperative in my area. I was in awe of this style of affordable community housing and applied immediately.
I had an invitation to attend an interview, which was really nerve racking - and then held my breath.
Seven days later I had a call - I had been accepted as a probationer member and was soon allocated a property in a lovely, quiet street within the area of my daughter’s current primary school. FANTASTIC!!
We have a pretty 3-bedroom weather-board with a large garden and massive liquidambar in the back garden - which I call the ‘Golf course’. As an avid gardener I set about laying paving and establishing a rockery along the driveway up to the front door, this also cut down the maintenance.
A huge benefit of belonging to a co-operative is the community aspect. Initially we were self managing with members providing all the duties required. I was active on various committees, and attended ‘house clean-ups’ as properties became available and new tenants were about to move in; this all expanded the camaraderie and friendships were made.
As we evolved and merged into a larger rental housing co-operative, the requirements, legalities and knowledge to manage what was now a large not-for-profit enterprise became so complex we needed to employ qualified staff to provide the knowledge and acumen to ensure future progress.
Living in an affordable and maintained home has provided me with the energy to re-educate myself, as I don’t waste time worrying or being concerned that I cannot afford expensive maintenance costs.
As a qualified trainer, I have recently launched an exciting new career supporting people returning to the workforce.
The emotional and physical security available through affordable co-operative housing cannot be understated.
Both my children have grown up within the co-operative culture and are community minded with a view to making a difference with their lives.
I really cannot ask for more.
In 1996 Avril Lochhead and her two children, David aged 14 and Jane just 7 urgently needed to find affordable housing as their rental property was costing over 55% of the Sole Parenting Payment. Thank God for the Rental Co-operative! Since becoming a member in 1997, Avril has re-educated herself and designed and facilitated various programs through Community Centres. Her Success and the Single Parent received newspaper attention through articles describing the positive influence, group camaraderie and pride the participants had gained during their courses. Articles on Avril and her family have also been written in The Age and Thrifty Times. Currently sub-contracted to a local Registered Training Organisation as a Vocational Trainer, Avril enjoys the outcomes through facilitating a five week program which encourages positive group dynamics and encompasses life-skills, personal development and is creatively supportive to assist participants re-gain positions in the workforce. Avril’s children like a challenge too, as David is now working in Design animation in London with his Spanish partner Alicia and their two year old daughter, Ines - with another baby due soon. Jane has also been visiting London while the Olympics were on and will be on a working holiday for a few months. It is unlikely that any of this would have been achieved had Avril not accessed the supportive environment of the housing co-operative where she was able to focus on her own personal and professional development and be a positive role model for her children.