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Co-ops celebrate 30-years with PA Housing

2021 - August, Latest news

Residents living in the Belgrave and Highfields areas of Leicester have been celebrating a special anniversary recently: 30 years of working with housing association PA Housing to manage their homes and communities.

Around 710 residents in the city live in co-operative housing managed by the Bede Island Road-based association. This involves local networks of residents working together to meet their community’s affordable and sustainable housing needs.

Each of the homes in the co-ops, 119 at Ross Walk and 117 at Maynard, is jointly owned by residents, which means that each individual has a vote on decisions that affect their homes and neighbourhoods. The co-ops were set up over 40 years ago to prevent housing demolition and responded to the needs of Asian communities leaving East Africa to settle in the East Midlands.

Thirty years ago, PA Housing took over the management of buildings and services at the co-ops in Maynard Road and Ross Walk.

The organisation’s work around equality, diversity and inclusion is rooted in its long-term provision of homes for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) customers and is leading the way in the UK housing sector.

Mr Abhilash Gupta is a resident of the Ross Walk co-op, who has lived in his home for 39 years. Sharing his perspective about the origin of the scheme, he said:

They say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and that is what you see in the formation of these co-ops and the way that they are managed. PA and the co-op committee work towards continuous improvement and make sure they respond proactively to the needs of the community. It’s important to feel heard and have a sense that the things that are troubling you are going to be tackled. We get that here.”

Co-ops Service Manager, Imtiaz Vohra, said: “The co-ops are important to PA Housing because they are an alternative way of living that is personal and tailored to the communities. Also, the history of these particular co-ops sees BME communities seeking safe spaces and finding empowerment to lead their own living arrangements, which chimes with the values of our organisation and colleagues.”

Co-op Resident, Mr Mussa Dakri, a resident of the Maynard co-op for 29 years, said:

Once upon a time, this wasn’t a desirable place to live, but coming together as a community and having a united voice to shape our environment around the people that live here and care about it, that has made this a real home. You can tell in the way people take care of the neighbourhood and everybody wants to move in here now!”

Mrs Fatima Dakri said: “PA Housing makes the co-op's Annual General Meeting an event everyone wants to attend – there is real transparency in where the money that goes into the co-op is spent. It is something you do not get when you live in a council flat as we did before – then it is just a house.” 

Mrs Dakri described the community that exists at Maynard: “When the children were growing up, we would take them to the social events. We would get a three-course meal, there was a magician and a raffle where we won some good prizes a couple of times.”

This is echoed by Mrs Indu Gupta at Ross Walk, who said: “We are incredibly happy here. There is a feeling of family with the other members of the co-op, and safety within the local community as a whole.”

Over the last three decades, PA Housing has worked with the co-ops on financial management, home repairs, and community safety. As time goes by, the housing association continues to adapt its work with the co-ops; for example, providing more support to residents as they age.

It hopes to soon be able to return to the face-to-face events that have always brought the communities together – starting with a celebration marking its 30th anniversary year.

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