Gung Ho is a fully mutual housing co-operative. Like all co-operatives we agree to abide by the Rochdale Principles. ‘Fully mutual’ means that all our tenants are directors of the co-operative and all the directors are also tenants.
Practically this means that all tenants have an equal say in how we manage the house finances and the day to day maintenance and running of the house and that no-one else other than tenants has a say. This makes us different from large housing associations which are often managed by a board of directors and by people who do not live in the accommodation.
The house we live in is owned by Gung Ho as a company (an Industrial & Provident Society) and not by tenants as individuals. This means that tenants do not own a share of the mortgage and could not profit personally by selling the house, or be held liable for a the co-op’s liabilities when they leave.
Living in a housing co-op gives us the benefits of home ownership in terms of control over our house, the ability to set our own rent, security of tenure and the lack of landlords and letting agents. Moreover, we as individuals do not have the burden of a huge debt, we are still eligible for housing benefit and we have done this without the financial barrier of raising a large deposit.
Gung Ho is a member of Radical Routes, which is a UK-wide federation of housing co-ops, worker co-ops and social centres. Radical Routes administers loans to co-ops to help them to buy properties and other assets such as solar panels, provides financial and legal advice to get co-ops started and support to keep them running.
We received support from Radical Routes for several years whilst we got Gung Ho off the ground, culminating in us buying our property in 2009. We contribute to Radical Routes by joining in democratic collective decision making at quarterly gatherings and by contributing to the work of various committees such as finance and publicity working groups.
All of our members are expected to contribute in some way to the running of Radical Routes, although our commitment to the network is as a co-op and we can divide this commitment amongst ourselves as we see fit.
One of the criteria for membership of Radical Routes is a commitment to a certain number of hours of work towards ‘social change’ by week. Whilst the concept of social change is not clearly defined by RR we have developed our own statement of what social change work consists of.
You can find our full definition of social change at the end of this paragraph. Engaging in this kind of work and thinking along similar lines is an important part of our members’ lives.
1./ Must be social –
That is working with people outside our immediate acquaintances and affecting society as a whole.
2./ Must be anti-capitalist
We recognise that the defining characteristic of our society is the exploitation of our class by the capitalist class. Social change work must be anti-capitalist; it must oppose this exploitation, or the other hierarchies and exploitations that underpin capitalism such as patriarchy, racism, homophobia, disablism &c..
3./ Can be constructive…
Beyond anti-capitalism we seek to establish a libertarian communist society based on the free association of workers, individuals and communities. Work towards this society is recognised. Steps towards syndicalising workplaces, making workplaces co-operative, federating associations and so on will be recognised.
4./ Can be destructive…
Organising and participating in strikes or resistance.
We take it as read that our members’ actions will be informed by a thought out and consistent critique of capitalism. This critique is not sufficient on its own in the same way that uninformed action would not be.
Being in a co-operative is not inherently radical. Co-operatives recreate the system of property. Rather than eliminating the contradictions of capitalism, co-ops internalise many of them. The landlord and boss functions are carried out by the workers/tenants, forced by market imperatives to enact capitalist exploitation on themselves.
While workers are forced to work to live they will be wage slaves – whilst mortgages have to be paid tenants are exploited by the market. We believe that co-operatives could be a useful tool for building a post-capitalist society, but they are not in themselves a political or economic challenge to capitalism.
We are building towards a mass revolutionary movement so frank, inclusive, radicalising activities should be our focus.
We spend quite a lot of time together as a house, enjoy each others’ company (most of the time!), cook and buy (vegetarian) food and essentials together and have a weekly meeting to keep on top of everything. Gung Ho is not a hippy commune though! We don’t pool underwear or bathe together.
We are working class people using an effective strategy to win us some control and dignity over our housing situation in a capitalist society where people who don’t have the money to buy their own place often don’t have those luxuries. We would love to help more people to set up their own housing co-operatives. Please get in touch with us if you would like to know more.