Cooperative housing solutions that work

Dallas skyline & suburbs / Andreas Praefcke

The worldwide housing crisis could be significantly improved with housing cooperatives, which could be designed to suit the community. Think single family homes, dormitories, or re-purposed strip malls but don’t let your imagination stop there. Cooperatives offer a path for creative life-supporting housing.

In Defense of Housing, the blog post and the book explains this tragic phenomenon more fully. The causes are well documented so my focus is on remedies that are logical, doable, and based on a cooperative legal structure.

Single Family Home Cooperative

Organize a large number (100 for economies of scale) of single-family homes in a geographically dense area into a cooperative. The cooperative forms a corporation to purchase the properties, and pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance, landscaping, repair and maintenance.

Cooperatives provide the benefits of ownership while protecting owners from costly repairs and expenses because the corporation manages the maintenance and repair.  If the roof needs replaced or sewers need repair, the co-op is on the hook, not the individual owner. Who relishes the prospect of spending the summer painting a house?

The co-op could also provide member households with wi-fi, bulk purchasing or other amenities that residents want and are willing to pay for. The neighborhood would probably look like any other but happier and possibly more cohesive.

Dormitory Housing / Updated Boarding House

The boarding house model of bygone years is due for an update and maybe it’s in the form of a modern dormitory. Every resident would have their own room, and the common areas would be comfortable and attractive. Each dorm would have its own culture. Responsibilities could be shared, rotated or limited. The advantage of a social environment, while preserving the privacy of your own quarters, could be great. Seattle architect Grace Kim designs cohousing communities and lives in one. Cohousing has some similarities to dormitories. She spoke about it at TED 2017.

The design would have a huge impact on the nature and atmosphere of the building and, for probably not much more money than building it cheaply to warehouse people, it could be designed to house them well with ample space, light, air and furnishings that soothe rather than jangle.

Repurpose strip malls
Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio / Nicholas Eckhart

Strip malls that blight many neighborhoods could be repurposed into highly functional villages that foster neighborly interaction. You could cut out the center of a big box store for air, light, landscaping and even a vegetable garden. The utilities – electric, plumbing, water, and gas are already in place. These buildings could be adapted for apartments, stores, schools, health clinics, and day care centers for both children and seniors. This infrastructure makes it easy to imagine friendly, healthy, walkable villages.

The commercial-real-estate firm CoStar estimates that nearly a quarter of malls in the US, or roughly 310 of the nation’s 1,300 shopping malls, are at high risk of losing an anchor store.

Shopping mall dead zones blight communities because they are ugly, can be dangerous, generate no property taxes, but burden law enforcement. People living in these towns would benefit greatly with housing that is safe, cheerful and cultivates a sense of community.

Housing prospects for those with low or moderate incomes are not plentiful now but there are solutions that could change that. When we get the hang of cooperatives, a whole vista of opportunity opens up.

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2 thoughts on “Cooperative housing solutions that work

  1. Hooray, Terry, for publishing the above. The cry for cooperative housing and other cooperative enterprise is growing. Majority politically movements are concluding that the ill effects of capitalism is outweighing the benefits. Socialism in health and welfare with the entrenchment of Social Security and Medicare and growing ackowledgment of the need for a single payer system (expanded social medicare) is becoming acceptable but not in the business arena and possible for the better seeing how gross capitalism has become in Russia upon the fall of the Soviet Union and communisim or manipulated as in China. The political movements have done great analysis but have not come up with a solution. Cooperation is the peoples’ free enterprise alternative to captalism, socialism and communism. Let government give cooperation as much subsidy to get started as it gives to capitalist enterprise and see where it leads us. Herb Fisher.

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