Rochdale Boroughwide Housing – Our EO Story: Succeeding together – our mutual way

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), as the UK’s first tenant and employee co-owned mutual housing society, is different to other employee ownership organisations in that we are jointly owned by both our employee and tenants.

This model provides our tenants and employees the opportunity to become a member, placing our tenants, employees and communities at the heart of our organisation. This is a fundamental difference that sets us apart from nearly all other housing associations and something we are very proud of. It ensures we remain focussed on providing local opportunities to improve lives, families and communities within the borough of Rochdale.

Who are we?

RBH is a co-owned provider of social housing. Our Society provides over 12,000 homes within the borough of Rochdale. We are a place-based organisation committed to improving the lives and communities of Rochdale through quality homes and services and we have nearly 6,000 members of our Society, made up of both tenants and colleagues.

Our governance helps us achieve positive outcomes

Being a member means that employees and tenants have a say in ensuring we get the best positive outcomes for both tenants and employees. This could be voting on key decisions, or electing tenant and employee representatives to our Representative Body. Our Representative Body, made up of elected tenant and employee representatives, sits at the apex of our governance, and means we get true bottom-up decision making.

A clear recent example of this has been how our Representative Body, made up of elected tenant and employee members, has been actively discussing how we can better support tenants and employees experiencing financial hardship as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

Representatives were clear that they wanted a range of different services to meet the different needs of tenants and as a result, an extra £225,000 was invested into Money Advice, Energy Advice, Tenancy Sustainment and the Your Local Pantry network so more tenants and employees can benefit from these services over the coming year.

Our Representative Body also has the responsibility to develop our strategy, which representatives recently agreed in February 2022. This will be delivered through our unique governance framework which foregrounds collective action, with members made up of tenants and employees working together to create better services, healthier and safer homes, and stronger communities.

We are writing the next chapter in Rochdale’s co-operative story, and we are laying the groundwork to enable many more chapters to be written by our children and grandchildren.

Our Representative Body also works closely with our Board, and has the responsibility of appointing our non-executive Directors and the Chair of the Board. Both our Board and our Representative Body regularly come together to discuss and debate key issues, with our tenant and employee representatives providing a unique perspective that enables our Society to really listen to the concerns of our members and act accordingly.

We are proud to be owned and run by our tenant and employee members. We know we are stronger together. And no one is better than our employee members to talk about what working for a co-owned mutual is like and the difference being a mutual makes.

Here are just a few quotes from some of our employee members:

  • Karl Astbury (Head of Strategy): “I joined RBH precisely because it is a mutual. The biggest societal challenges we all face are around climate change and inequality – and I truly believe that these issues need collective action, which our mutual model provides. I am proud to be a member of RBH, and I am proud to work for a mutual.”
  • Alex Legge (People Business Partner): “I have found RBH to be extremely welcoming and friendly. What has struck me is how quickly people volunteer to offer help and support and how approachable everyone is. Everyone is really passionate about doing a good job and improving the lives of the residents in Rochdale which means that there is a real sense of focus, collaboration, and pride across the society.”
  • Skye Roberts (Tenancy Sustainment Advisor): “Whilst working within RBH, I noticed a huge difference from previous employees. The instant mutual respect between colleagues and tenants was extremely prevalent. Being a mutual ensured knowledge and skills from both tenants and colleagues were shared, resulting in RBH being an extremely pleasant atmosphere to deliver quality housing services.”
  • Racheal Ray (Social Value and Community Wealth Co-ordinator): “From the moment I started the interview process for my role I knew I really wanted this job. The fact that RBH was a mutual intrigued and made me feel excited about being part of something different. Previously I have worked for private businesses, charities, and social enterprises. However, RBH was the first co-owned mutual for tenants and staff that I had come across. This felt like I was about to be part of something unique. I was successful in gaining the role.  It was during Covid, and the process was online. Yet, it still managed to feel personal and relaxed. I was successful in getting the role and immediately felt a member of the team. It has been a new experience hybrid working, but RBH allows you to do what is best for both the role and you. It is still early days, but so far so good and I am happy in my new position.”
  • Charlotte Briggs (Junior Graphic Designer): “There is a widespread mentality where every employee and tenant is treated as an equal; you can ask questions and have conversations with anyone.”
  • Sophia Grime (Governance Co-ordinator): “I recently joined RBH and during my interview I was waiting at Unique Enterprise Centre. I have always believed that you can tell a lot about a company in the first five minutes. I saw the positive energy where even though I was only coming for an interview I was made to feel welcomed. Where you felt included, even as a guest. Warm and open. That is part of what mutuality means for me. Inclusivity. A sense of belonging and that your voice matters. That collectively you can make a difference.”
  • Becky Earl (Payroll Administrator): “I was initially drawn to working for RBH as I felt their values aligned with my core values too. It was very refreshing researching about RBH and realising how people focused they are, and how they empower their staff and tenants is very different from most other employers. It also felt non-hierarchical too, and that equality for all shone through.”

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