With 106 members Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op (ESHC) is the largest in the UK. Operating out of two properties the co-op is split into four ‘working groups’ to complete basic functions. The two buildings are split into flats made up of four or five bedrooms with shared facilities. The buildings were previously rented as private student halls. But unlike regular student halls whose small flats don’t facilitate a wider community Edinburgh is more open. Each flat has its own identity while not being segregated from the wider co-op. The stairs and hallways were covered in art work completed by the students, with each kitchen decorated slightly differently. Some with brightly painted kitchen cabinets, others with fairy lights and a couple with built in beds for guests to stay on. The students have a lot of freedoms that you wouldn’t get in student halls. One student removed their carpet and put down a wooden floor. Other students have cats, dogs and even a pet rat.
ESHC began their journey by holding a student referendum at the University of Edinburgh. 92% voted in favour of the motion to mandate the Student Union to help establish a student owned housing co-op with a record turnout. Through this the local council became aware of the co-op. So when Castle Rock Edinvar, the largest housing association in Edinburgh, approached the council regarding a property they were redirected to Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op. With the help of Castle Rock they were able to move in just in time for the start of the academic year. To finance the refurbishment of the buildings ESHC pieced together bits of funding. This included a grant, offering shares to members and a small loan. Paying their lease, stamp duty and various other fees in arrears meant that they did not need as much start-up capital. They also made a deal with Napier, the original user of the buildings, to keep the old furniture saving them thousands.
When ESHC announced they were hosting the annual Students for Co-operation conference we jumped at the chance to visit the co-op. After a long six-hour train journey to Edinburgh we finally arrived in the snow and were fed some amazing vegan food and brownies. The food throughout the whole weekend was excellent. ESHC kindly housed us for the whole weekend and we were spread out among the flats. (Shout out to flat 9’s kitchen window bed, very comfy!) We spent Saturday learning all about the history of co-ops, how to use our students unions and conflict resolution from various members of ESHC and Glasgow Student Housing Co-op. On Saturday night there was a party in the basement and a bonfire outside.
Big thank you to all Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op for a great weekend!