Co-operative housing

“Housing estate jointly held by a co-operative society thereby insulating the land and house prices from the fluctuating prices of the speculative real-estate market. The housing estate is made of many varieties of housing units so that people from different ages, different walks of life could live along.”


What are Housing Co-operatives ?

To state it simply, a co-operative housing society is a membership-based legal entity made of one or more residential buildings. You become a member by buying shares in the housing co-operative. In return, as a member, you get the right to occupy a housing unit in the society, be it an apartment or a house. A Housing co-operative, therefore, is a housing enterprise that is jointly owned by all its members and democratically controlled. Its main purpose is to provide affordable housing for its members, who are charged only for the actual cost of running the co-op. Housing co-ops generally operate at-cost or on a not-for-profit basis.


In what way are they different from conventional housing – such as buying a house from a real-estate developer ?

Unlike buying an apartment from a commercial developer, in a housing co-operative, you become a member of a co-operative housing society by buying shares. This is usually relative to the kind of house that you would occupy in the housing co-operative. As a member, you also obtain the right to vote in matters containing the management of the co-operative society. Therefore, you are not only a member-owner but also have a democratic right over how the overall community is driven.

Another important difference is that commercial housing is built for profit to the real-estate developer and for consumption. Therefore housing options are restricted to generalised layouts such as 1BHK, 2BHK etc. A housing co-operative’s end goal is not financial profit but to nurture an affordable living community. Therefore housing co-operatives can be more affordable and can have a lot of different kinds of dwelling to suit different household needs.fore housing co-operatives can be more affordable and can have a lot of different kinds of dwelling to suit different household needs.


What do you mean by joint ownership and democratic control?

When you join a co-op, you invest some amount of money in the co-op by purchasing equity shares on the co-operative. You’re not only a customer or a user, you’re also a member-owner. Co-operative housing societies are operated and governed by members, and are thus truly autonomous and independent in all aspects. Office bearers or representatives of the co-operative are chosen by the members through a fair process of election. Also members have a right to vote on the issues concerning the co-op – whether it is of management or of future development. Therefore there is more participation and everyone can express their wishes and needs.

Affordable communal spaces and shared facilities

Co-operative housing allows the possibility to contain many different types of apartments – from small, shared apartments to multi-family dwellings in the same developments. Further, by combining some of the functions such as spaces for visiting guests, workspaces etc. into shared facilities, the costs of individual houses can be reduced while maintaining a high level of community participation.


Are there different kinds of housing co-operatives?

There are indeed different kinds of housing co-operatives that you can be a part of. In principle, co-operative housing models differ based on differences in ownership model, differences in dwelling type and differences in target or ambition that the co-operative collective sets up. The most common models are as listed below:

Ownership Housing Co-operatives

The society holds the land on lease or freehold basis, and members own the houses.

Co-Partnership Housing Societies

These housing societies hold both land and building, either on leasehold or freehold basis and allot flats to their members.

House Construction or House Building Societies

The society provides the money to the member for building the houses and live in them. The money spent is recovered as a loan.

Wide variety of housing options and apartment types

Co-operative housing could be built with rich social spaces that can be effectively used by all in the building. By establishing priorities in the beginning through member participations, highly user-friendly and new housing layouts can be developed while keeping the overall housing costs to the minimum.


What are the benefits of being part of a co-operative housing society?


Cooperative housing provides an affordable homeownership opportunity for people at all income levels. Buying a share in a co-op is usually less expensive than purchasing a single-family home or condo. Because the co-op is owned by the residents, it operates at cost; there is no third party profit motive. Members have no reason to substantially increase monthly charges unless taxes or actual operating costs increase. The operating budget covers only what is required to manage and maintain the cooperative including reserves for maintenance and long term improvements.

Limited financial liability

The cooperative business structure allows residents to borrow collectively under a single mortgage (often called a blanket loan). Individual members of the co-op are not personally liable for loans taken out by the cooperative corporation on behalf of its members

Variety of house types

Since the primary focus of a housing co-operative is to provide housing that is not for profit, it has the flexibility to experiment with different housing types for different kinds of population. In conventional housing development, a private developer has to turn-in a profit and so builds standardised apartment types and layouts based on general market demands. This leaves less room for experimentation. A co-operative housing model which is run by the members of the co-operative society, instead, can experiment with different ownership models, different dwelling types for different family types

Suitable for diverse people

A co-operative housing society can be developed with different housing solutions – from small shared apartments, 1 BHK units, co-living spaces, to senior living apartments, to name a few. As requirements change, households can move among different units within the cooperative as their family size and space needs grow and change, all while staying in the same community, and without paying prohibitive transaction costs with each move. Because changing units in a housing cooperative is as easy as simply swapping leases—rather than going through a real estate transaction—cooperatives are uniquely suited for intergenerational living.

Supportive Community – social benefits

Members of the co-operative society are directly involved in the management and administration of the overall development through their votes. Therefore there is the active involvement of the residents in matters concerning the improvement and welfare of the community.


How are co-operative houses kept affordable in the long run?

When you join a co-op, you invest some amount of money in the co-op by purchasing equity shares on the co-One of the unique aspects of a cooperative corporation is that the co-op can adopt bylaw provisions that limit the maximum resale prices of co-op units. A member enters a co-operative society by buying a share into the co-op. When members want to leave the co-op, they can do so by selling the shares to a next prospective member. Certain rules within the co-operative society place limit the maximum value these shares can be sold. This is done to keep the costs of co-operative housing affordable and to a  minimum.

Let’s build something together.

External content

Download: Cooperative Housing Development Toolbox

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