Framework sections highlighted: Leadership, Listening, Strategy

Brighton’s first student housing cooperative

Housing is a big issue in Brighton and Hove. Rent has been increasing in the area faster than anywhere else in the country, and last year it was found that one in 69 people in Brighton is homeless. Massive power imbalances exist between private landlords and renters, leading to poor quality, unaffordable housing for both local families and the area’s large student population.

So when a group of students from Sussex University decided to get organised and do something about it, it was clear the task was both a very much needed and extremely complex one.

For the past three years, student officers at Sussex University in Brighton have received training in the practice of community organising from organisers Dot and Valentina. One of the officers trained last year, Ashling, felt strongly that Brighton’s housing situation needed to change. Using her community organising training from Dot and Valentina, Ashling began a listening campaign with Sussex students, where the idea of setting up a student housing co-op was suggested.

Led by Ashling, a group of passionate students gathered around this shared vision of a different way of living together and got to work. They established the housing co-operative group SEASALT – South EAst Students Autonomously Living Together. They secured funding from the local Community Land Trust to employ a project manager, put together a business plan and identified a 15-bed former care home suitable to become their prospective home. They then began exploring different ways of securing the property, approaching investors for funding and working with an ethical building society.

The group were keen to have inclusivity and openness at the heart of their organisation, as their website states:

All the other student housing co-ops so far have been named by the cities they’re in - but as Sussex students, we didn’t want to exclude Brighton students or suggest it was only for Brighton students either. So the members came up with a name that could represent all South East students and were also keen to have a coastal connection, and so S.E.A.S.A.L.T was born!

Throughout their journey, SEASALT have reached out to a number of local co-ops for support, as well as visiting other student housing co-ops around the country. The group has also been out door knocking with one of their local community organisers, asking local residents what they would like to see from them as potential future neighbours. Through this process they have produced a “Community Promise”, inspired by some of the residents they listened to, to demonstrate their commitment to being good neighbours.

SEASALT will soon be receiving a full package of community organising training to help them be even more effective in their endeavour, and are currently in the process of building their power in numbers, having recently run a range of socials and engagements throughout Fresher’s week to recruit more students to their cause of providing quality affordable homes in Brighton.


If you've got a great story about community organising and the positive impact it is having in your community we would love to hear from you.