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ICA Asia and Pacific (ICA-AP) in collaboration with Cooperative Housing International (CHI) held a Regional Forum on Cooperative Housing on 9th March 2021.  

 

This online networking and information exchange was to introduce the participants to the work of CHI and ICA-AP, hear from cooperatives working in the area of housing and increase interest in the work of ICA. The forum featured cooperative housing organisations from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and the Philippines.  It was attended by more than 70 participants from across the world.

 

 

Ms. Julie LaPalme, Secretary-General, CHI introduced CHI and its work to the participants. It is one of the eight sectoral organisations of the ICA representing the housing sector with 30 members from around the world. It promotes good practices on cooperative housing and facilitates networking, partnerships, education and training, and peer-to-peer exchanges. Explaining cooperative housing, Ms. LaPalme said that each model can be different like rental homes or owner-occupied, but they have the community as a common focus. They are designed to meet the economic, social, and cultural needs of their members. She added that CHI is a part of CoHabitat Network, which is a collaborative platform for cooperative housing organisations from around the world to have access to peer exchanges, learning and advocacy discussions, and solidarity fund. Its digital tool ‘CoHabitat.io’ is a Wikipedia for community-led housing with an open-source license and can be easily accessed by everyone from any part of the world.

 

Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director, ICA Asia-Pacific, in his address, thanked CHI for exploring the Asia and Pacific region to expand cooperative housing. He gave an overview of the ICA-AP Regional office and said the region has 109 member organisations from 31 countries which are large federations or national apexes representing cooperatives and sectors in the region. The region’s vast geography spreads from the Middle East to the Pacific region with most members concentrated in South and South East Asia. Given the diversity of the countries and sectors, ICA-AP works with 10 thematic and sectoral committees - agriculture, consumer, credit and banking, education, forestry, trade and business, research, youth, human resources development, and gender committees. He said, given the growing interest in the region about housing cooperatives, it is an opportunity to come together and address the needs of the region.

 

Ms. Errum Sharif Bhaiji from Karachi Cooperative Housing Societies Union (KCHS Union), Pakistan shared a brief history of the cooperative movement in Pakistan which began in 1912 before the Indian-Pakistan partition. There were 46 cooperative housing societies in 1947 and KCHS Union was established in 1949, while the commercial business was initiated in 1970. KCHS Union is the apex body of housing cooperatives and provides medical, educational, sports and employment facilities for the lower-income strata. Until 2019, KCHS Union had 8,372 housing coops with 9.6 million members in 7.5 million houses. She presented the example of the Taiser Town Project which is being established on 750 Acre land purchased from the government. The project comprises residential area, commercial area, public utility infrastructure, and educational spaces targets 54,000 people. She also raised concerns over the land mafia issues in Pakistan posing challenges for the cooperative housing sector.

 

 

 

Ms. Eugenie Stockmann from Cooperation Housing, Australia showed a short video presenting the views of their members on cooperative housing. She said that as an umbrella organisation, they support their housing coops in financial management, asset management, tenancy management, and governance. They work in alliance with other coop housing organisations from across Australia, called the Australian Cooperative Housing Alliance (ACHA). ACHA conducted a research project to study value in coop housing and it showed that coop housing results in cost savings and increasing social capital, overall health and wellbeing, and satisfaction of its residents. She believes that in the Australian context, the coop housing model is well placed to deliver community-led and affordable housing.

 

 

 

Ms. Sam Subida from Federation of Peoples’ Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC), Philippines introduced FPSDC as a secondary coop established in 1998 through the organisation of its 21 founding members. Presently, it has a membership of 170 cooperatives. FPSDC, as part of the global community, works for alternative structures and means for social justice and equity. It advocates sustainable development through 4P’s – people, planet, prosperity, and peace. To deliver this, FPSDC offers services like socialised credit and investment (financial services) and institution building, development of a sustainable housing model, and distribution and marketing (non-financial services). Explaining the sustainable cooperative housing community model called Coop Ville, Ms. Subida said that it is a sustainable housing program that aims to build physical houses along with sustainable communities and addresses the 7th principle of cooperatives – concern for community. It is based in Southern Philippines on five-acre land and was initiated in 2012 as a result of the destruction caused by torrential rains and flooding in the region. Coop Ville was developed in two phases – infrastructure building and creating livelihood opportunities for the residents to help them overcome their losses. It has 176 housing units, 133 families and 600 residents. She also talked about the challenges FPSDC faced while developing Coop Ville like continuous efforts for community development, management of community with diverse backgrounds, and COVID-19 outbreak which put on hold various initiatives of the Coop Ville program.

 

Mr. Mohamad Ali Hassan from ANGKASA, Malaysia presented the cooperative housing model in Malaysia focusing on the present and future. He spoke about the issue of affordable housing for all which is a focus area for the Malaysian Government as well. The government’s affordable housing scheme, Residensi Prihatin aims to provide adequate, comfortable, quality, and affordable housing to enhance the quality of life of the people. Malaysia had 14,668 cooperatives as of January 2020 but only 2.13% of these are housing cooperatives due unstable financial resources, high return on investment period, and dependence on consultants for technical management and monitoring of the projects. Sharing ANGKASA’s perspective on housing needs, he said that ANGKASA envisions to increase housing cooperatives’ contribution to the National GDP to RM15 billion by 2025. He said that like Coop Ville in the Philippines, Malaysia is developing a Coop City to be owned and managed by the cooperatives and shared examples of successful housing coops in Malaysia. He believes that shelter is a fundamental human need and with this perspective, affordable housing for all can be achieved and suggested having regional & global housing coop banks, financial & technical assistance, a special fund for housing coops, joint ventures by advanced coop housing countries to develop such projects, and an Asia Pacific regional committee on cooperative housing.

 

 

 

Ms. Brenda Pérez-Castro from the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights (ACHR) spoke about their network of 19 Asian countries comprising organised communities of urban poor, professionals, support groups, local and national governments to promote cooperative housing. ACHR promotes community-led housing initiatives with support from local and national networks as compared to other housing coop models which are concentrated in one region. This collective process resulting in a cooperative institutional framework has helped the communities of urban poor being recognised as cooperatives. She shared that the people’s processes of developing cooperative housing, often initiated by the informal communities at a local level are entangled and complicated processes. Through the Asian Coalition for Community Action (ACCA) program, ACHR has built 146 housing projects in five years with support from 100 partner organisations. She said rehabilitation of communities is not the only solution but redeveloping the existing settlements and building collective communities is another way forward and 51% of ACHR’s projects are based on this. Presently, ACHR is supporting the collective housing movement at the national level in 10 Asian countries. These countries are engaged in mapping and documenting the existing experiences, legal and policy research, webinars and e-workshops with collective housing communities, supporting pilot projects, and advocating collective housing. She concluded that ACHR has shared principles with cooperative housing like devising non-speculative solutions, promoting self-sufficiency among communities, radical participation, and thinking beyond housing for collective ways of living.

 

Ms. Jessica Soto from WeEffect, Philippines noted that there is a housing need in the Philippines and WeEffect follows a hybrid approach in organising slum dwellers into cooperatives. She said that WeEffect has organised 49 housing coops, out of which, 21 have their mother coops and 28 of these are slum dweller coops. They have partnered with Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) to streamline excessive paperwork and make it easy for the housing coops. They have organised a joint monitoring and evaluation committee for housing coops and forums with financial institutions to discuss housing for the poor. She said that they have resettled 280 families through this project. She also talked about the Cooperative Housing Township for which they are acquiring the 240-hectare estate, of which 66 hectares will be devoted for an economic zone. She said that at the moment 15,620 families are waiting for housing finance and the proposals are lying with the government which has a very limited national budget. There are blocks in the road to affordable housing for all and she is keen to collaborate and work on devising sustainable solutions.

 

Mr. Yuli Kusworo from Arkom, Indonesia introduced their organisation. It is part of the ACHR since 2009 and is a community of architects focusing on the urban poor, homeless people, and post-disaster contexts. He presented a model of post-Tsunami collective housing in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Arkom chose to work with communities in coastal area because it is strategic to promote a community-led approach, massively impacted by Tsunami and other disasters, and is threatened by the government’s new regulation for resettlement. The organisation works by involving the community in emergency response and considers them as survivors, not victims. He said that working collectively is the real trauma healing process for the survivors. Collectively working with the community, they find alternative solutions for the reconstruction of the disaster-affected areas. He shared that the project has generated interest among communities to rebuild and avoid relocation as offered by the government. The government has also accepted the model and approved its replication for 3,000 families under the centrally funded scheme, Central Sulewasi Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Project, co-funded by the World Bank.

 

The presentations were followed by a short Q&A session where the discussion focused on challenges in organising communities and in finding collective solutions. Ms. Soto noted that there are many similarities in the models presented in the forum; the biggest challenge is the gap between the communities and governments, and we are all trying to link government, private, and the people to work together as they are all interdependent.

 

Ms. LaPalme informed that the regional forum has been planned as a biannual event and the next event will be organised by the end of 2021. She thanked all the speakers and participants for attending the forum and hoped is had initiated a conversation.

 

The complete recording of the webinar can be accessed here.