What is a Housing Co-operative?

What is a Housing Co-operative, and what makes it unique?

In a housing co-operative, the housing development is jointly operated by its members. They own membership shares in the corporation, giving them the right to occupy a dwelling unit and participate in the operations of the corporation. The co-operative housing corporation owns the total property.

It is a unique form of home ownership, the people who live in the housing co-operatives are its members. From the beginning, they decided on the planning, design, and day-to-day management of the co-operative.

Membership means control. Each year members elect from among themselves a Board of Directors to run the housing co-operative. They serve on committees with various responsibilities such as new member selection, member relations, maintenance, finance and social/recreation. Sometimes they hire staff, but the final decisions and responsibility rests with the members.

The units in a housing co-operative are not individually owned. They are owned by the co-operative and cannot be bought or sold for profit.

Co-operatives offer control of one's living environment and a security of tenure not available in rental housing, not subject to landlords.

Instead of rent, members pay a monthly housing charge to cover all costs. Charges rise only as costs increase.

Social Advantages

Community Control - As mutual owners, members participate at various levels in the decision-making process. This is not true of tenants who usually do not have the opportunity to exercise responsibility. Members own the co-operative together and have the security of being able to remain in their homes for as long as they wish, as long as they meet their monthly obligations, and abide by the co-operative by-laws, house rules, and policies.

Cultural Diversity - Many co-operative members indicate that the possibility for interaction with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and income levels is a positive factor in their decision to become a member.

Co-operatives accommodate all kinds of people. In some, units are reserved for householders with special needs. For seniors, co-operatives are often just the right combination of security and affordability. Co-operatives are communities within larger communities. Members share common goals and a sense of identity.

Democracy - Each member has one vote in making decisions on important matters such as housing charges, the election of directors and the regulations members will be expected to follow.

Physical Benefits

Shared Maintenance Responsibilities - Co-operative members usually have direct maintenance responsibilities. The co-operative is responsible for upkeep of common grounds and facilities, major repairs, insurance and replacement of worn-out equipment. For the major items the work is contracted to professionals.

Vandalism and Security - Co-operative members vigorously protect their property. An important benefit of co-operative ownership is reduction in vandalism and abuse of property and improved and shared security arrangements. Recent studies show that the co-operatives' presence in the neighbourhood brings crime down in the area.

Co-operative Housing - Over one million families are provided with pleasing and affordable places to live through housing co-operatives. Owned and controlled by members, co-operative housing often provides significant savings over physically comparable rental or single-family housing.

Non-profit Co-operative Housing Means...

Affordability - Non-profit co-operative housing is design to be affordable. Unlike rents, co-operative housing charges rise only with increase in operating costs. Co-operatives provide housing at cost to low and moderate incomes.

Security - Members have the right to continue to live in the co-operative for as long as they choose, providing they respect the obligations of membership.

Good Quality, Modest Housing - Co-operatives seek to provide the highest quality housing possible within cost guidelines, both in initial construction and through continuing maintenance.

Building Communities - Co-operatives are communities within larger communities. Members share common goals and a sense of identity and pride from working together... Co-operatives make good neighbours, and can revitalize decaying neighbourhoods. Many set up recreational, social, educational and mutual help programs.