MARY ANN JOHNSON HOUSING CO-OPERATIVE
CO-OP PRINCIPLES & GUIDELINES
The following guidelines and principles are the “secondary rules” of Mary Ann Johnson Housing Cooperative Limited (MAJ). They are guidelines we would expect every member and prospective member to abide by. These guidelines & principles, along with the “fully mutual rules” and the tenancy agreement of MAJ are the documentation we would work by to achieve our goals and to keep MAJ running successfully.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
- a. To take control of our housing needs and provide affordable, secure and self-managed housing for our members
- b. To work in a non-hierarchical way along the general principles of respect, co-operation and mutual-aid and – within the co-op – inclusivity.
- c. To provide (where possible) space and resources for groups working for social equality and environmental sustainability, especially those based in Haringey
- d. To work together actively on local campaigns against injustice, and to fight capitalism and promote radical social change
- e. To promote environmental sustainability as far as we can, including in our housing and the way we live and work
We see “the co-operative principle” as not just the most effective way to manage property, but the most ethical and the most appropriate for living in harmony with the natural world. We would expect members to be actively involved in helping to create a better society, based on equality and environmental sustainability. To this end/On this basis, we encourage members to:
- Live and work co-operatively
- respect others and aim to resolve differences amicably
- seek to provide mutual aid/support to others who may need it
- take responsibility for themselves and their actions
- value children as individuals and respect their ideas and opinions
- Live as sustainably as they can, ie…
- reduce consumption of environmentally damaging products
- re-use, recycle or compost rather than binning things
- walk, cycle or use public transport rather than private motor vehicles, and on this basis wherever possible vehicles belonging to members should be shared in a car pool
- Prevent suffering to animals
- Adopt a vegetarian/vegan diet
- Avoid keeping animals save where it is in the animal’s interest
We share the aims and principles of Radical Routes:
- We want to see a world based upon equality and co-operation where people give according to ability and receive according to their need;
- where work is fulfilling and creativity encouraged;
- where there are no hierarchies;
- where the earth is valued and respected in its own right rather than polluted and exploited.
As we are a housing co-operative, all our members are tenants or prospective tenants, and all our tenants are members. Management of the Co-operative is by meetings held once a month. Major issues* to be discussed and proposals to be made shall be submitted to the Secretary at least 2 weeks in advance of the meeting, and relayed to all members at least 7 days in advance.
(* some – but not all – examples of major issues would be: proposal of new members; expelling of an existing member; and any item of expenditure over £500).
All meetings shall:
- Check if previous decisions have been carried out
- Record mail received and sent
- Report back and where necessary discuss the work of each of the Officers.
- Be attended by at least one third of the members of the Co-op.
The Officer posts are:
- Rent Officer
- Maintenance Officer
All Officers work under the members’ direction.
In order to avoid cash flow problems, members are asked to pay rent by standing order or direct payment wherever possible, and by prompt monthly payments otherwise.
Although the “fully mutual rules” of MAJ lay down certain voting procedures, it is our aim to take all decisions by consensus wherever possible. When an issue is raised and agreement cannot be reached, then it should be returned to a second meeting. If no consensus can be reached at this second meeting, it can then be decided by the voting rules laid down in the “fully mutual rules”, if the meeting so decides. However, we would urge that all contentious decisions are delayed until consensus can be agreed, wherever possible.
In the event of a dispute, we all share the responsibility of doing what we can to mediate and resolve the conflict, both during and between meetings. We offer each other support and respect each other’s commitments.
Mary Ann Johnson Co-op may at times seek prospective members who will be expected to accept its rules and share its principles (see above). All members and potential members will be expected to carry out a fair share of the work of the housing Co-op.
Mary Ann Johnson Co-op seeks to make its properties safe for everyone, and will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or the incitement of hatred based on difference. In the final instance, any tenant or member not meeting this criterion will be asked to leave both the Co-op and any property they are renting.
Ideally, it is our policy to encourage the setting up of new co-ops, rather than the expansion of MAJ. However, should MAJ require new members the Co-op will invite prospective members to our meetings to meet all the members of the Co-op. If there is a consensus about a prospective member at the first meeting where a decision is to be taken, then the said prospective member will be invited to join the co-op. If there is no consensus, then at a second meeting, if no more than one person disagrees, the decision to allow membership will be carried.
Should any new member become a tenant, there will be for a probationary tenancy agreement of 6 months, after which a decision will be taken at a general meeting whether to allow the said person to continue to live in the property. Should the meeting feel the person is not suited to the Co-op they will be asked to leave the co-op as a member (as members are all prospective tenants) and given a further 2 months to find somewhere else to live. During this time, the ex-member will be expected to continue paying rent and bills, and abide by the rules of the Co-op.
Everyone who is a member of MAJ is expected to take some part in its day to day running. The minimum commitment is to attend six meetings a year and to pay their rent promptly, but the success of the Co-op depends on the willingness of members to join in.
People with responsibilities for children (especially single people) will be encouraged to join the Co-op as both members and prospective tenants. Although overall responsibility of any child will always remain with the carer/parent, other members of the Co-op are encouraged to support the carer/parent in their child-care responsibilities, and support the children in the same way they would any other Co-op member.
An example of the main questions the Co-op will ask of new members will be (in no particular order):
Are you right for Mary Ann Johnson Co-op i.e. Do you share the Co-op’s philosophy and aspirations?
Will you contribute to the running, upkeep and improvement of the Co-op and any associated social space? Could you be the Co-op secretary, treasurer, or other officer? Are you any good at DIY, gardening etc.? If not, then are you willing to learn?
Do you plan to be a member of the Co-op for the foreseeable future?
Mary Ann Johnson Services
MAJ provides accommodation, adequate insulation and facilities for heating, lighting and running appliances. It will ensure that buildings are not allowed to deteriorate, will reserve a budget for improvements, and will ensure that communal areas will be kept safe. Buildings insurance will be provided by MAJ, but tenants will be expected to take responsibility for any
other insurances they require.
Members are jointly responsible for maintaining communal areas, and should clear up after themselves. As a number of MAJ members are either vegetarian or vegan, all communal meals and food prepared in communal areas should be either vegetarian or preferably vegan. Internal communal areas are no-smoking areas. Smoking in external communal areas is allowed on the condition that it is done in agreement with whoever shares the area.
We are still in discussion over our policy towards animals within the collective. This includes both animals in communal areas and animals within member’s own personal space.
Should any tenant have a spell away from their property they will have the option to sub-let their flat for an agreed period of time to a person nominated by the tenant. However, this will only be allowed if both the period of absence and the sub-tenant are agreed at a MAJ normal meeting.
The co-operative will reimburse it’s members (and prospective members) their travel expenses to and from each RR gathering. Where possible this travel should be the cheapest form possible.
The co-operative will reimburse it’s members (and prospective members) who go to RR gatherings for up to one nights bed & breakfast.
All members going to gathering are expected to organise their own travel and Bed & Breakfast as early as possible.
We see our participation within Radical Routes as a collective responsibility and all members should try to contribute towards both attending gatherings and fulfilling our co-ops work commitment. Because of this we will try (1) to rotate who goes to gatherings and (2) take on Radical Routes work commitments that can involve as many (if not all) members as possible.
Low Impact Lifestyle
As stated above, we will in respect of both the co-operative and as individual members:
reduce consumption of environmentally damaging products
re-use, recycle or compost rather than binning things
walk, cycle or use public transport rather than private motor vehicles, and on this basis wherever possible vehicles belonging to members should be shared in a car pool
We will not ask members, or prospective members, about their level of savings as we feel it is more important to have members who we trust, feel comfortable with and can work with collectively. This is in respect of both running our housing co-operative, any social space we acquire and political involvement we are/will be involved in as a co-op or as a group or single individual. Not withstanding the above, we would guess members selected for participation in our housing co-operative are either (1) generally low or unwaged and therefore have little savings, or (2) would use any savings wisely and would offer support other members in financial need if necessary.
Membership of our housing co-operative does not depend on the level of a members, or prospective members, level of income – neither low nor high. As with members’ savings, we feel it is more important to have members who we trust, feel comfortable with and can work with collectively. This is in respect of both running our housing co-operative, any social space we acquire and political involvement we are/will be involved in as a co-op or as a group or single individual. Not withstanding the above, we would assume any member, or prospective member selected for participation in our housing co-operative would either be (1) low or unwaged and therefore have little excess income, or (2) would use elements of any excess income to support other co-op members, the co-op or political activity of members or groups they at times be involved in – for example Haringey Solidarity Group.
Investment in other co-ops
As MAJ presently is still trying to raise funds to acquire property for its own members, we have no policy in respect of this issue. Should we ever managed to house ourselves and be in a position where we have managed to pay of substantial amounts of our loans, Mortgages, and loan stock, we will revisit our policy around this issue.
We reaffirm our commitment above. Mary Ann Johnson Co-op seeks to make its properties safe for everyone, and will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or the incitement of hatred based on difference. In the final instance, any tenant or member not meeting this criterion will be asked to leave both the Co-op and any property they are renting.
We are committed to equal access to our Co-op.
We will show no discrimination on the grounds of disability when advertising for vacant spaces in the co-op.
Wherever possible, MAJ will adapt the properties to include the different needs of members. This may include re-decorating or making access possible for wheelchair users where practical.
We will also ensure communication such as minutes is issued in accessible formats where necessary.
Political and social change activity
Defining what we mean by “political and social change” can vary hugely between groups and even between any two individuals. What one person may call radical change another may call liberalism or lifestylism. What one person calls radical, another may call utopian dreaming. All our members are presently also members of a local non hierarchical group called Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG). HSG’s guiding principle is “We are a group of local people who want to get rid of the current system which places profit and power before people’s real needs. To do this, we believe we all need to get organised, fight back and take over the decision-making in communities and workplaces. We support and participate in local campaigns, spread ideas and help create effective opposition to the powers that be.” Although MAJ does not hold this as one of its principles, we fully support the feelings behind it, and see it as a decent attempt to explain what we mean by “political and social change”.
We would hope that members, and prospective members, would fully support HSG and its aims and work to bring them about both in the local area of Haringey, North London, and also nationally and internationally.
We realise that political and social change are not always easy to bring about and at different, or the same, times different activities may help to achieve these goals. We therefore would not put restraints on what activities we see as bringing about these much needed changes. It is for individuals to think about this for themselves, and for those wishing to bring about such changes to discuss, chat, argue, debate, co-operate and hopefully put into action, events that could bring about positive change for both ourselves and other oppressed individuals and communities. It would be naive to think all members of our co-op would do these at all times throughout their time with us. All we can ask is that members, and prospective members, think about it and where they can try and engage is whatever activities they can to bring this about.