Filipino community wins government award because of housing co-op model. Here's their story according to one of the housing co-op resident, Violeta Escultura.
In December 2010, Kapitbahayan Cooperative Ltd. (KCL) announced that ten units were available for occupancy in Sedgwick St., Leumeah for Filipino nationals who were fifty five years old and above or with disability. The KCL selection committee approved the applications of 13 tenants who moved in on January 2011. A series of workshop and mentoring on housing cooperative and management was provided by KCL for six weeks. Sedgwick Housing Cooperative Ltd.(SHCL) was formed and registered with the Office of Fair Trading on April 2012.
Tenants include a couple who used to be teachers, a mother and a daughter, a priest, a federal government employee, a hairdresser, a community health care worker, a cook and hospitality employee, an accountant, and a grandmother.
The composition of its tenants is the most valuable quality of SHCL. They have varied expertise;they share their talents and skills and embrace similar values. Most of them are active members and officers of different community organisations. The tenants share the joy of finally having a beautiful home with an environment conducive to healthy living.
SHCL was a recipient of the “Cooperative Community Development Award” on 25 November 2016. This was to recognise its active collaborations with other community organisations in the South West Sydney area. A ZEST award nominee, SHCL continues to form linkages and partnerships with other multicultural and religious associations in the area.
The collective effort and participation of tenants in all activities make it easier for the organisation to manage. There is a common desire of everyone to keep the compound clean and safe, and to practice healthy living. SHCL is very much concerned with the welfare and wellbeing of its tenants physically, mentally and socially. The tenants in return are happy to abide by the rules and policies of the cooperative.
The autonomy given to this co-op by CENSW to hire tradesmen make it easier to immediately act on needed repairs as SHCL building and structure show signs of needing attention. The requests for the installation of disability friendly facilities like chair lift, hand rails and induction stoves were quickly processed and approved by CENSW.
Several improvements have been undertaken in the last ten years. A covered meeting area was built and a new landscape was done on its grounds. These projects were made possible through the SHCL’s Volunteer Grant and Landscape Improvement Grant from the NSW government. Vegetable and ornamental gardens have also been added and flourish around the compound.
The tenants call the place their home so they are always looking at continuing and further improvements. In the next few years we would like to facilitate improvement of the physical plant – grounds and building. These include painting the exterior and interior of the units, installation of affordable and renewable energy power like solar system, eco-friendly hot water system and construction of a covered parking area.
Ageing officers who had served the co-op can now turnover some responsibilities to the younger members to efficiently assist and support the Board achieve the goals of the co-op. A continuing program that would benefit the members needs to be planned and implemented on the areas of horticulture, computer literacy, food handling, and first aid to name a few.
SHCL would like to maintain a continuous harmonious relationship with CENSW to facilitate budget allocation to improve the physical plant. The ways to strengthen rapport with the tenants and promote open communication to help resolve issues would be to have regular visits and meetings with CENSW officers in person or by zoom.
In the years to come it is our hope that more cooperative and affordable housing units be constructed for the most vulnerable members of the community. SCHL would be glad to be involved with mentoring new coops alongside with the KCL.