Extract from an article by @NikiSethSmith
‘You be the landlord this time.’ ‘Yeah, all right then.’ I’m visiting student flats in Edinburgh and the new residents are signing their contracts. On first glance, it looks like an average beginning of the academic year, but there’s something special going on here. This 106-bed property in the heart of the city is one of only two student housing co-operatives in Britain, both opening their doors this autumn. These young people are tired of high rents and exploitative landlords, and have taken matters into their own hands.
I’m shown around the property by Mike Shaw, a serious 22-year-old who only betrays his excitement through the eagerness with which he throws open the doors to each new room. ‘The idea is that it’s participatory, everyone gets involved… it’s very much about giving members the ability to make the space,’ he tells me.
There’s certainly lots to do in the two-building property, which sits either side of a pub, looking out on the scenic Meadows. There are staircases to paint, living rooms to decorate, and two vast basement spaces to be converted into communal areas.
Shaw is a network co-ordinator for Students for Co-operation, a democratic federation of student co-ops across Britain set up last year. He was part of a group at Edinburgh University who came up with the plan to run their own accommodation, open to students from any of the city’s universities. A year and a half later, the co-op has been flooded with applicants.