Looking back on 2021
Here is our statement and update looking back on 2021. Reposted from Brighton and Hove Community Land Trust on behalf of SEASALT Housing Co-operative. We hope you’ve enjoyed following us throughout the year and we hope that you’re inspired to join us and make material change in 2022!
A note from our director, Janet Crome
Amidst the distress and uncertainty of the pandemic over the past two years, we saw an outpouring of good will and generosity by over 150 people from various parts of the country, who recognised the importance of providing truly affordable housing for young people in our city of Brighton & Hove.
Investors in our Community Share scheme, having been prepared to put up funds totalling £332,600 for the purchase of a shared house for young people to be able live co-operatively, are entitled to receive annual interest payments from the net rental income which BHCLT now receives from the house at Appledore Road.
Our mortgage requirements were significantly reduced because of the share offer contributions.
Seven young people from Seasalt Housing Co-operative have been living there since September 2021 and a full building works renovation programme is under way.
We are now in a position to honour our obligation and repay investors as set out in our share offer document. Our intention with these newsletters is to keep you up to date with developments and plans for the future. Please contact us if you would like any other information or if there is anything particular that you would like to hear about.
SEASALT members talk about being part of the co-op
|Ophelia – SEASALT has been an absolute joy! It’s an environment where I feel safe, heard and seen and where everyone is considerate of people’s well-being and mental health|
|Lou – After having some pretty awful experiences with renting in student halls, I was overjoyed to become a part of SEASALT. Co-op living is different to what I was used to before, in some ways it is more challenging than private renting as we have to do a lot more work than would traditionally have been done by a landlord, however it is much more rewarding. So far I have loved living in the co-op and look forward to seeing where SEASALT goes from here.|
|Amreen – I joined SEASALT because the idea of living in a co-operative really stood out to me – mainly due to less restrictions that if I were living in a rented house with a landlord. So far being part of SEASALT has been an eye-opening experience! I’m really glad to have met new people who have become friends and live with individuals who believe in the same values when it comes to housing.|
|Joe – With the next highest private rented sector in the country outside of London, Brighton needs fairer spaces to live in. In a wider sense though, I believe people need to be able to spend their life in spaces where they have a say. I love having the creative freedom to customise my personal space – for instance, being able to paint my room green and have a blackboard. I’m excited to see what is around the corner for SEASALT, and to start gardening when the weather warms up. I’m also really looking forward to developing the communal space with advent of the new year|
The project to date
In June 2021, we purchased an existing House of Multiple Occupation in Mouslecoombe in Brighton. It’s a semi-detached house, built in the 1940s. It has a lovely big lawned garden at the back, all the bedrooms are good sizes and the open plan kitchen and living room are also a good size.
Initially advertised as an 8-bedroom property, we discovered during the purchase process, that it only had planning permission for 6 bedrooms. Any reduction on the number of bedrooms obviously had an impact on our long-term financial model. Under advice, we decided to apply for a 7-bedroom Certificate of Lawful Occupation, because that was more likely to receive planning approval and would also provide a better living standard, with additional communal space.
The purchase price was £500,000, plus £15,000 stamp duty (reduced because we completed before the end of July). We funded this with a £339,000 mortgage from Ecology Building Society and the rest of the purchase price, as well as the planned programme of renovation and improvement works was funded by our community share offer.
We worked with SEASALT to prioritise the renovation work that we wanted to do in the house. The main priorities for both organisations were physical accessibility and energy efficiency. We realised that initial aspirations to carry out a Whole House Retrofit exercise were not going to be possible within the overall finances of the project. However, we still wanted to make the home as energy efficient as possible, given the budget constraints.
Broadly, the work we planned was as follows, separated into four separate phases:
- A new ground floor accessible wet room/WC / shower room (phase 1)
- Various small renovation works as recommended in the building survey report.
- Accessibility features such as ramps to provide access to the building at front and rear
- Eco-renovation works e.g. Cavity wall insulation, loft and dormer insulation and other measures recommended in the BHESCo report.
We hoped that the first stage would take place in September before the new tenants moved in. Despite asking eleven different building companies to provide quotations, only five builders visited the property and we only received one quote. This was from Richley Builders. However they were only able to start on 1st November. This meant that there would not be a wheelchair accessible bathroom in the house for the first two months. We navigated a temporary solution with the members in question, a Portaloo, and friendly neighbours letting us manoeuvre it over their hedge and flower garden.
New members moved into the house on 17th September. One of the risks outlined in our share offer was that it might be difficult to find people to live there, given changes to teaching during the pandemic and students possibly choosing to study from home. SEASALT found no problem finding people who wanted to join the co-op, which is currently a mix of people studying their undergraduate degrees, masters degrees, and some who finished university last year (in line with SEASALT policies)
There were of course moving in issues and start-up problems that we worked out as we went along! The work to build the accessible wet room was carried out through the whole of November and finished in early December to a good standard. It caused a lot of disruption to the people living in the house but they dealt with it well! They are really happy with the new wet room, and the new corridor means the layout and entrance to the house is much better and more open. There is a new heating boiler and internal doors with improved insulation and we installed cavity wall insulation on the 5th November.
We also wanted to let more people know about the project, the first of its kind in Brighton and the south-east. We sent out a press release when we bought the house and were featured in local, national and international press. We have been in touch with local councillors and MPs, who are planning to visit the project. SEASALT are still planning some local community engagement with local neighbours and in partnership with the local community pub, The Bevy, who have been supportive of the project. Some of these plans have been delayed because of COVID. However, SEASALT have still been doing lots of amazing outreach work across the country, telling people about their journey and why co-operatives are so important. Have a read of what they’ve achieved below.
Our plans for 2022 and beyond – We will carry out the remainder of the work on the house. It has been a much more extensive process than originally envisaged – not helped by lots of other issues coming up while we have been doing it! In 2022, we will focus on working out the share of responsibilities between the two organisations and SEASALT plan to seek further training and support about all the aspects of how to run themselves successfully as a co-op and how to pass on the learning from this year to future members.
Our initial stage of improvement works has come out over the budget that we originally set. This has a knock-on effect on the rest of the planned works, but we have worked hard to prioritise what we need and want to do. We will also continue to seek comparative quotes to achieve best value, while not compromising on quality. We hope to receive grant funding to install access ramps and improve the access to the garden.
The reduction in number of tenants from the initial 8 to 7 has an impact on our long-term finances as the rental income is reduced. We made the decision that we didn’t want to offset this by raising the rents further. We have also decided for the moment that we will keep the number of rooms at 7, rather than trying to increase it to 8, because it improves the environment and conditions for the people who are living there. We are still hoping that we will be able to buy a second property but are planning to look at this again in 2023-24, when we have a firmer idea of the finances of this project.
If you would like to see our financial model for the project, please get in touch with Helen – firstname.lastname@example.org
SEASALT – A year in review
Tom Green – SEASALT
Two of the fundamental aims of SEASALT, and we believe any co-operative, are education and community. Teaching our members, the wider student body and the public about co-operatives which we hope creates a vibrant community of knowledge and skills sharing. This year, we’ve worked hard to lay the foundations for both.
Starting as far back as late 2020 (remember that?), we received an invitation to talk at Action Hampshire, a rural Community Led Housing event held over Zoom in January. Sim, Matt and I took on this task, the first such event for Matt and I and thus a little bit dauting.
It was a great success though and we were scouted by Paul Kelly the director of Breaking Ground Liverpool, a community led housing festival for the Liverpool city region hosted in March. Perhaps a bit overconfident from our first achievement, we went in with les preparation and subsequently a bit more disorganisation! Nonetheless, we delivered an effective presentation to wide ranging audience including Liverpool city councillors. City councillors stayed in contact and now want to set up housing co-op of their own as part of CLH developments resulting from the Metro Mayors land commission. The first of its kind in the UK.
As the British summer slowly came to life, Sim and I packed our bags and headed for Stir to Action’s ‘Playground for the New Economy’ festival, a 3-day campout with talks and workshops at the beautiful Selgars Mill site in Devon. Sim was almost ready for her talk with just a tiny bit of last-minute preparation on the train. “From Cottagecore on TikTok to Housing Co-ops”, she explained the cottagecore aesthetic that is an ideal for many young people and explored the ways that we can translate this into a real-life passion for co-ops and radical change. I also met so many wonderful people at Selgars Mill from the Friends of the Joiners Arms (and their drag comrades Lèse-Majesté) to Ben who was a member of a tech co-operative up north in Newcastle.
By the Autumn, we had just completed the purchase of our first house (whoop!) and we were attending York Design Week to share our success and knowledge. This time, alongside Paul Kelly and various other groups including local squatters and YorSpace CLT. Late September is conference season, well, so say my friends involved in parliamentary politics. We saw it as an opportunity to take on an old cliché and deliver our ideas and vison to the corridors of power, in our case, the conference hall of Young Labour. Sadly, for various reasons we couldn’t take up this invitation, but we did accept an offer to talk at the alternative festival, The World Transformed. Titled: “Building Rebel Cities, Brighton and Hove” our very own Ophelia Mancey sat on a diverse panel which included: Sussex Homeless Support, Landscapes of Freedom, a mass trespass movement who want to open private and disused land for public access, Reclaim Pride whose aim is to build stronger LGBTQ+ communities, mutual aid networks and get back to the roots of Pride, Sussex Renters Union who won millions of pounds in compensation for students over the pandemic and chaired by Nehaal Bajwa, Diversity, Access and Participation Officer of Sussex University Student’s union. We feel that it is important to give as many of our members as possible a chance to partake in all aspects of our work including our outreach. I offered to work through the talk with Ophelia beforehand and share with her what I had learnt from previous events. She did a brilliant job and personally I think this was one of our best events so far.
Reflecting on what we’ve achieved and learnt this year, I am reminded by the words of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Through the power of education and community, we’ve started to explore why our broken housing market drags so many people into financialised and inescapable situations. Most importantly, we are offering practical solutions by sharing our own experiences and knowledge, gradually building up robust communities bursting with so many beautiful ideas. This gives me hope for a more positive future filled with democratic, affordable, and sustainable answers to all the issues we face in our neighbourhoods and in this country. I hope it fills you with the same energy. I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed being a part of our community so far, we look forward to building with you further in 2022 and beyond…
Solidarity and best wishes for the new year,
Tom and everyone at SEASALT Housing Co-operative
We hope you have enjoyed reading about our first year since we were successful in acheiving our community share offer. We thank you so much again for the support and investment that made all of this possible.
All the very best,
Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust