Next meeting: What can we do about housing?

Housing is a massive issue in Brighton & Hove. House prices rose from an average of £50,000 in 1995, to £295,000 in 2015 and it has the highest share of privately renting households (32.5%) of any town and city in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics. Rents have also gone up steeply.

Many people can no longer afford to live here. In 2012 the Council found that almost 88,000 households in Brighton & Hove (72 per cent) cannot afford market housing (either to buy or rent) without some form of subsidy or spending a disproportionate level of their income on housing costs. One in 69 people in Brighton & Hove are homeless, according to Shelter.

At the last MAIS meeting we discussed what to organise this year and housing was something we were all keen to address, particularly following on from November’s talk on housing co-ops. At our next meeting on Weds 15 Feb at 7.30pm in Two Piers Housing Co-op (directions below) we will discuss and hopefully start to organise two ideas:

1) A walking or cycling tour of housing co-ops in the city in the Summer, so people can see first hand what these alternatives are like, talk to the people who set them up, and find out their limitations and possibilities.

2) A day of talks and workshops about alternatives to the current housing situation, which would bring many of the housing campaigns together for a day. This would be like the Co-operative Alternatives event we held last year, but focused just on housing. Ideas so far include having:

  • Different organisations talk about their work on homelessness
  • People talking from the Brighton Living Rent Campaign.
  • People talking from SolFed about their housing campaigns, protesting letting agents fees, rent strikes.
  • People from housing associations/council housing to speak about how they can expand the sector which provides the most affordable housing in the city.
  • Workshops on housing co-ops, community land trusts, co-housing projects and/or self-build.
  • People talking about efforts to set up a renters union in Brighton and/or getting speakers from renters unions in other cities.

Nothing is set in stone yet. If you have ideas about any of this and/or would like to help organise either of the above events, please come to our next meeting on Wednesday 15 January, 7.30pm at Two Piers, 3 Christchurch, Bedford Place, BN12QJ.

Email us on if you would like to come so we have an idea of numbers. We can also send you more detailed directions.

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Sick of landlords? How to set up a housing co-op.

Please note the change of location for this event – it will be at Coachwerks.

Brighton and Hove house prices are nearly 5 times more expensive in 2015 than in 1995 (from £50,000 to £295,000 on average) and it has the highest share of privately renting households (32.5%) of any town and city in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Rip-off rents and letting fees, damp housing, overcrowding and evictions are all too common.

Housing co-operatives are one of many ways to create more genuinely affordable and secure housing in the city.

Eventbrite - Sick of landlords? How to set up a housing co-op.

On Tuesday 29th November at 7PM at Coachwerks, Mutual Aid in Sussex have organised three people to talk about how they set up their housing co-ops and how they work:

* Andrea Jones, as project manager, is currently helping set up Bunker, a housing co-op for low-income families. She is involved with the network of Co-operative Housing in Brighton & Hove (CHIBAH).
* One of the members who fairly recently helped set up Skylark, a housing co-op for young people.
* Helen Russell helped expand Two Piers, the largest and longest-running housing co-op in Brighton & Hove. Helen has clocked up 33 years of co-op living, warts and all. She is the Secretary of CHIBAH, the Chair of the Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust Steering Group, and initiated the rebirth of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing in 1991.

There will be time for both an introduction to housing co-ops as well as more in-depth advice on how to set them up. Space will be given for questions and networking.

If you’re sick of paying for the holidays of the 2% of the adult population who are landlords, or just want more affordable and secure housing, come along to this talk!

Eventbrite - Sick of landlords? How to set up a housing co-op.

Tuesday 29th November at Coachwerks. The talk will start at 7pm. FREE.

A brief introduction video to what is a housing co-op (focused on student housing co-ops, but relevant to all housing co-ops)

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Seize the Power! Bringing community renewable energy to Brighton & Hove

The next Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) meeting, on Wednesday 19th October, will include a talk with Kayla Ente (Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-op – BHESCo) and Will Cottrell (Brighton Energy Co-op) about what they’ve been doing in Brighton & Hove, plans for the future, and how people can get involved.

Eventbrite - Seize the Power! Bringing community renewable energy to Brighton & Hove

Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-op (BHESCo) is a not-for-profit social enterprise bringing together the community of Brighton and Hove to develop renewable energy projects, improve energy efficiency, reduce fuel bills and tackle fuel poverty.

BHESCo help homes and businesses reduce their energy costs by developing and installing renewable energy and energy efficiency systems at no upfront cost to the customer.

kayla-ente Kayla Ente, founder and CEO of BHESCo, has a distinguished career in sustainability and renewable energy, having worked for Greenpeace International, Nuon (the Dutch utility), and Ecofys (European pioneers in renewable energy). She has helped to develop wind farms in China and Spain as well as solar power projects in California and Hawaii. She moved to Brighton in 2012 and founded BHESCo in 2013. Since then BHESCo has completed 5 renewable energy projects in the Brighton area, with a further 7 new projects in development, including a ‘food waste to energy’ plant in Hangleton. Kayla and BHESCo’s grand vision is to establish a community owned renewable energy tariff available to residents of the local area

Brighton Energy Coop (BEC) is about community-owned renewable energy. Basically, we get a load of people together, everyone puts in a little bit of cash and collectively we are then able to build large scale renewable energy systems.

Money raised from selling the electricity flows back into the coop – it’s then distributed in the form of our community fund, interest to members and paying back capital. Our host sites benefit from the cheap electricity that our panels provide.

will-cottrellWill Cottrell has driven BEC forward from its inception. Overseeing both new project development and fund-raising for BEC, he has experience in the technical and financial aspects of renewable energy, as well as marketing and communications. In 2014 he was awarded Community Energy Fundraiser of the Year; in 2015 he also won the People’s Environmental Award’s prize for Energy.

Come and join us: Wednesday 19th October at Coachwerks, 19A Hollingdean Terrace, Brighton. If you can, please bring vegan food to share. The meeting will start at 7pm, with the talk from 8pm.

Eventbrite - Seize the Power! Bringing community renewable energy to Brighton & Hove


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Save money on your energy bills this winter with BHESCo

Mutual Aid in Sussex are bringing Brighton & Hove Energy Service Co-op (BHESCo) to Coachwerks on Sunday 16th October, between 2-4PM, to show you how to save £100s of pounds on your fuel bills this winter.

In just 10 minutes BHESCo can show you

* How to find the cheapest energy tariffs & switch supplier (typical savings over £300 a year)
* How to stop wasting heat and save energy in your home
* How to tackle draughts and damp

Bring your bill & see how much you can save!

For more info on BHESCo email or go to


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DIY Bike Hub – Fix your bike for free every Saturday at Coachwerks

Details below – every Saturday between 12:00 – 16:00 – at Coachwerks. At the same time Coachwerks Wholefoods Co-op is open so you can get your shopping while you fix your bike. Mutual Aid in Sussex is helping organise these weekly bike fixing sessions.


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How we can use community shares to fund our community and co-operative ideas – talk by Dave Boyle (Community Shares Company)

The recording of this talk can now be found below:

The next Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) meeting, on Wednesday 21st September, will include a talk with Dave Boyle (Director, Community Shares Company) about how we can use Community shares to fund our community and co-operative ideas, using examples from Brighton & Hove and around the country.

Dave Boyle

Dave Boyle

Invented by the co-operative movement in the 19th century, withdrawable share capital has come out of the sidelines and suitably refreshed and rebranded as Community Shares, and is the means by which community enterprises are funding the acquisition of pubs, the development of renewable energy, building sports stadia, funding accountable media and much more.

Dave Boyle has worked on over 20 shares issues including the Bevy Co-operative Pub and Exeter Street Hall in Brighton, and will explain what Community Shares are, why they work well for co-ops and community enterprises. Not only are they the right kind of money, but they show a way in which sustainable and solidarity local economies could be built.

Come and join us: Wednesday 21st September at Coachwerks, 19A Hollingdean Terrace, Brighton. If you can, please bring vegan food to share. The meeting will start at 7pm, with the talk from 8pm.


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Setting up the Ecological Land Co-operative – challenges and lessons for the future

**Please note: This talk was moved from 22 June to the 20th July. **

The next Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) meeting, on Wednesday 20 July, will include a talk with Zoe Wangler, founding member and director of the Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC).

Zoe Wangler 2014.thumbnailELC was set up in 2009 to address the lack of affordable sites for ecological land based livelihoods in England. The co-op purchases land, obtains planning permission, and installs the infrastructure to create clusters of three or more affordable residential smallholdings.

Zoe’s presentation will set out what the co-op does, its roots, and why the members chose to be a multi-stakeholder co-op. She’ll share some of their failures and successes, their plans for the future and the challenges they face.

Come and join us: Wednesday 20 July at Coachwerks, 19A Hollingdean Terrace, Brighton. If you can, please bring vegan food to share. The meeting will start at 7pm, with the talk from 8pm. 

The Ecological Land Co-operative from Ecological Land Co-operative on Vimeo.

Elc MAIS Talk 20-07

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Reflecting on Co-operative Alternatives event (11th June 2016)


Chris Funnell (Co-operative Assistance Network) giving introduction to co-operatives and the co-operative movement (see his full powerpoint below). Photo by Adi loosli.

On 11th June 2016 Mutual Aid in Sussex (in collaboration with Free University of Brighton) hosted a day long event called Co-operative Alternatives, with eight separate workshops (plus two plenary sessions) and a number of stalls promoting local and national co-operative projects. The full schedule of the event can be found here. The powerpoints of those who used them on the day can be found below:


Helen Russell (Co-operative Housing in Brighton & Hove) giving workshop on How to set up a housing co-op (see her full powerpoint above). Photo by Adi loosli.

In total, we had 96 people attend the event (plus about a dozen or so organisers and people helping out on the day).

Feedback from people attending was hugely positive, such as:

Once again, a big thank you for organising the co-operative alternatives event. I learnt an awful lot about the roots of the co-operative ethos & feel very inspired in regards to developing our values after Mike’s presentation plus some good pointers for conflict. I feel very proud to be a part of the co-operative movement. I am definitely up for being involved with MAIS on more events like this and hope to see you all again at meetings soon. – Polly from Kindlings Outdoor Play And Education Workers’ Co-operative

Thanks again for putting on the event – as I said on the day I’ve been really wanting to be a part of something and to connect with people already doing brilliant co-operative things down here, so it was much appreciated! – Sarah Owen

We feel we have both helped many people in their own projects, and also strengthened the mutual aid network in the area.

As a result of the day we have already had people interested in starting up new co-operatives, offering to host smaller events and to get more involved in helping run MAIS, and we’ve had numerous people telling us that the event was directly beneficial to them and their co-op.

The day was a huge success promoting co-ops and strengthening the co-operative network in Sussex.

We were able to raise around half of the costs from donations on the day for the event and also had the support of Lush and the Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund




One of several stalls at the event. This one was for the Sail Boat project – a workers’ co-operative. Photo by Adi loosli.

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Why Co-operative Alternatives?

It is now less than one week to go until the event ‘Co-operative Alternatives for work, housing, energy, food and more.’

Matt Wilson of Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) and Bartleby’s brewery has appeared on Latest TV and Radio Free Brighton to talk about the event, why it’s being organised it and the benefits of co-operative ways of living and working:

  • Listen to Matt and Davy Jones on Radio Free Brighton’s politics show here or below.


  • Watch Matt with Mike Mendoza on Latest TV here or below.

Co-operative Alternatives is a free event on Saturday 11 June. It starts at 10.30am at the Synergy Centre, Brighton. There is a full schedule of the day, and more details, are available here.

There a few places left for the event – if you would like to come, please register here at Eventbrite.

Any questions? Get in touch at mais[at]riseup[dot]net

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MAIS and Free University Brighton statement on the Synergy Centre and the Co-operative Alternatives event

Several weeks after we organised – with Free University Brighton – the event Cooperative Alternatives on 11th June, concerns were raised with us that some people ‘volunteering’ for or through the Synergy Centre are welfare claimants working under threat of sanction as part of the ‘workfare’ programme, especially through Brightoning Lives.

The Synergy Centre is a valuable venue for many community and activist groups in Brighton and many volunteers who work there find it worthwhile. However, Mutual Aid in Sussex and Free University Brighton do not agree with any kind of coerced volunteering. We also think people should receive a fair wage for any work outside of genuine volunteering.

Since the Brighton Benefits Campaign (BBC) initiated the boycott against the Synergy Centre, Brightoning Lives have agreed a plan with the Trades Council, the local Green Party, the People’s Assembly Brighton and the Synergy Centre. More details here on the Brightoning Lives Facebook page.

However this agreement does not address many of the issues raised by the Brighton Benefits Campaign. A response has been published by them, including a call for the Synergy Centre to sign up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, which has been signed by 644 other organisations.

We engaged with the Synergy Centre as well as trying to contact and meet Brighton Benefits Campaign.

We also spent many hours contacting and visiting other venues around the city, however we were unable to find anywhere else available or appropriate given the short notice, the size of the event and that two workshops will be happen simultaneously throughout the event.

We had a choice of whether to cancel the event or continue with it, but decided to go ahead after collectively spending hundreds of hours organising it and with the expenses already incurred. Ultimately there is a small group of people organising this event, and everyone is volunteering their time to make this happen.

This was a very difficult decision to make. We want to live in a more co-operative and equal world – because of this we decided to go ahead rather than cancel, which is the only other option at this stage.

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