Homes affordable on minimum wage to be built in Stirchley, Birmingham – with no landlord

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The ground has been broken on the affordable housing development in Stirchley, Birmingham

The ground has been broken on an innovative Stirchley housing development set to be owned and run by its residents – with no landlords.

39 flats and three units for long-running local businesses will be built in the centre of the neighbourhood, on the corner of Pershore Road and Hunts Road.

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Residents will pay affordable rents to the co-operative which over time will mean they can collectively own the property and create more similar projects.

The housing will be democratically run, with residents making decisions by vote at regular meetings. Stirchley Co-operative Development (SCD) currently consists of a handful of locals who live in existing housing co-ops or work and own co-op-businesses.

These include the Birmingham Bike Foundry, Artefact contemporary art gallery and bar, and Loaf bakery.

Nick Cooke, a founding SCD member, said: “It’s incredible. 

Co-op members and their supporters raise the sign on site for the first time. Credit: LDRS.Co-op members and their supporters raise the sign on site for the first time. Credit: LDRS.
Co-op members and their supporters raise the sign on site for the first time. Credit: LDRS. | Co-op members and their supporters raise the sign on site for the first time. Credit: LDRS.

“This process has been going on for so long, there have been so many hurdles in our path, but it feels so good to finally have come to this, to get to the point where things are materially moving.”

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SCD was established in 2016 and has received support from local Councillors Mary Locke (Lab, Stirchley) and Karen McCarthy (Lab, Bournbrook & Selly Park Ward) as well as MP Steve McCabe (Lab, Selly Oak).

However, the journey hasn’t been an easy ride with SCD struggling at points to get the project through Birmingham City Council’s planning process.

Sean Farmelo, another founding SCD member and Birmingham Bike Foundry worker-owner, explained that this was due to the group having less leverage than an established and well-resourced property developer.

Such a company typically has the funds to reapply for permission several times over and entire departments committed to doing so.

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SCD members and councillors enter the site where the new co-op will be built. Credit: LDRSSCD members and councillors enter the site where the new co-op will be built. Credit: LDRS
SCD members and councillors enter the site where the new co-op will be built. Credit: LDRS | SCD members and councillors enter the site where the new co-op will be built. Credit: LDRS

He added: “[For] these developers, Birmingham could be any city where they want to put up a luxury block, and if the price is right, they can just put another 10 grand on the cost of the unit and push through whatever they want.

“And the same with student accommodation – they’re just using people as cash cows and they’re able to propose things multiple times.”

Support from housing association Green Square Accord has been on hand to enable the project to get to this stage and the plans were unanimously approved by Birmingham City Council in 2021.

SCD purchased the site from Seven Capital in the summer of last year after securing significant funding from Homes England and the European Interreg NWE.

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Construction of the three-storey development is now scheduled to begin in June 2023 and be complete around autumn 2024.

Council leader John Cotton said: “It’s a really exciting moment for Stirchley [and] a really good example of what you can do when you bring a community together and [build] a development from the ground up.”

Couns John Cotton; David Barker; Karen McCarthy, and Mary Locke pose for photo with SCD. Credit: LDRS.Couns John Cotton; David Barker; Karen McCarthy, and Mary Locke pose for photo with SCD. Credit: LDRS.
Couns John Cotton; David Barker; Karen McCarthy, and Mary Locke pose for photo with SCD. Credit: LDRS. | Couns John Cotton; David Barker; Karen McCarthy, and Mary Locke pose for photo with SCD. Credit: LDRS.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) asked if the council could do more to help similar projects through the planning permission process.

Councillor Cotton said: “I’m really keen to look at how all of our processes work because what I don’t want the council to be is an obstacle to communities being able to do things.

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“Obviously there’s legislation, there’s due processes that we have to go through, as the taxpayer would rightly expect, but I think what we need to be doing is ensuring that we are helping to enable and facilitate communities to do things.”

The overall cost of the development is set to be £10.4 million, providing:

  • 39 affordable rental homes (including four wheelchair accessible) with laundries and common garden spaces. secure, sustainable and fit-for-purpose premises for Artefact, Birmingham Bike Foundry, and Loaf.
  • A new community space including a pedestrian walkway, seating, a shared garden and cycle parking
  • Closed timber frame panels, provided by Walsall-based LoCaL Homes, will reduce the overall carbon dioxide emissions and heating bills versus traditional built properties due to its fabric first design principles and high-quality factory fitted insulation.
  • Anyone interested in becoming a member and living in a flat should contact SCD via this form.
  • There are requirements for potential members including that you must not own a house and you must understand there is no right to buy. Members are also not allowed to bring a car to the development or the surrounding area, unless they are disabled.

Further details can be found at SCD’s website.

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