The society was eventually formed on 23rd August 1956 and the first directors were Messrs Noel Brown, Ray Davidson, Hugh Fogg, Norm Vanner and Martin Warmbrunn. The secretary was Jim Smith. Over the term of the society Ivor Brown, Colin Ford, Barry Harris, Gavin Harrison and Pat McDonald were also directors, elected on the decease of prior directors.
The purpose of the society was to provide low cost housing finance for persons in the low to middle income brackets.
The society was to be the first of 15 similar societies in the Benalla comunity, all within the one group. 12 of these societies were funded by the State Government and three by trading banks. In all a total of some 525 homes within the Benalla precinct were funded over a life span of approximately 50 years.
In the early stages the maximum loan ranged from $6000 to $8400 or 80% of the cost of the house (whichever was the lower). This limit was raised with the passing of time and in acord with rising costs and considerably increased inflation rates. The term of the loans was set to be 30 years, but with good management a society was generally wound up after 26 to 28 years.
Funds were provided for the erection of new homes and for the purchase of existing homes within a radius of 25 miles from Benalla.
In order to become a member of a society, borrowers had to purchase, over the period, shares to the value of $100 each for every $100 borrowed. Payment for the shares represented repayment of the loan.
The interest rate on Government funded loans was 3.75% and on bank funded loans the current commercial rate. There was an income limit on Government funded societies to ensure that all borrowers were eligible.. This restriction did not apply to bank funded societies.
On entering into Jim Smith's accountancy practice in 1968, Ray O'Shannessy became a joint Secretary and administrator of the group. Tony Smith became his assistant in approximately 1986.
The Number 1 society was wound up in March 1984 and the others progressively thereafter, into the 2000's.
There were difficulties along the way. A number of members occasionally experienced difficulty with keeping up with repayments. However, eventually, all bar one member, managed successfully. The unfortunate one was regrettably sold up, but at no financial loss to the society.
In early 1985 the secretaries' office manager fraudulently appropriated a significant amount of society funds ($142,000) for his own use. Due to strict internal control procedures, the misappropriation was discovered within three months, and the secretaries wee able to recoup the shortfall from their insurance company. Of concern was the fact that the insurance company dallied for a period of three years before paying the claim. The secretaries' office manager served a prison term in Dhurringile prison.
However overall, the Cooperative housing group was a boon to Benalla residential ownership, providing finance to borrowers who otherwise would have gone without.