In the early 1980s the Victorian Government announced a new initiative called “Rental Housing Co-operatives” (RHCs). RHCs were seen as an alternative way of providing housing for low income families, which could provide the affordability and security offered by public housing with some of the benefits of home owners, such as stability.
In the early 1980s, a small group of dedicated and visionary people from the Geelong region came together because of a common need. They recognised that, for themselves and many others, it was very hard to find adequate affordable housing.
They wanted homes in which to bring up their young families and feel healthy, safe and part of a community. It was a time of social activism based on the dream of changing the world for the better, an era of revolutionary campaigns for social change, such as civil rights and feminism.
The Federal and State Governments throughout the 1970s and early 1980s were changing their views on issues such as welfare, and a narrow window of opportunity opened up for different ways of thinking about key social issues such as housing. This group of like-minded people in Geelong saw this opportunity and chose to use it to make significant change in their own community.
They started meeting in their own lounge rooms, working out how to fashion a community from their ideals and ideas. Through many meetings, much hard work and a commitment to the principles of co-operation, they created the Northern Geelong Rental Housing Co-operative.
The original founding members of the Co-op were issued a share certificate and they paid the amount of $1.00. A total of 58 shares were issued and share capital of $58.00 was raised. The issuing of Share Certificates was halted some time in 2012 as the movement of members in and out of the Co-op became problematic and the Committee of Management (CoM) decided to discontinue this practice. NGRHC is a registered ‘non distributing Co-operative without share capital’, however, the original $58.00 accumulated from shares remains on the balance sheet as share capital. The original issuing of shares was therefore more a gesture of ‘investment’ for new members rather than a legal obligation.
NGRHC was originally Governed by 5 working groups and there were no paid staff. At an intake and induction meeting, possible members would agree to attend a weekly working group and also a special general meeting once a month for the time of their probationary membership (before there was actually a vacancy). Members carried out most of the duties, conducted working bees and business was looked after ‘inhouse’ except for work that required qualified trades. Waiting lists applied to people wanting to be members and they had to attend each of the working groups to qualify in their probation period while waiting for a vacancy, some founding members report waiting two years for a vacancy and their probationary time to finish. Once successfully offered membership, new members still had to keep going to one working group and a monthly SGM.
In the 1990’s the Committee of Management model was introduced, previously NGRHC used a ‘governance by consensus’ decision making model, however, with the ever increasing introduction of government regulation NGRHC was required to move to a more formalised and accountable governance structure.
Some years later, through decades of challenge from within and without, the NGRHC has continued to thrive and is now blossoming in a new phase of its history.
NGRHC is a registered Not For Profit Association and a registered Charity with the Australian Charities and Not For Profit Commission (ACNC). NGRHC also holds Deductable Gift Recipient status which means any person donating money to NGRHC may claim this as a donation and is tax deductable.