Real estate professionals can help solve our housing crisis

Real estate professionals can help to solve our housing crisis by stepping up to the abundant opportunities of cooperative housing.

Housing cooperatives could significantly improve our housing crisis because they are member owned, operated, and governed. Cooperatives provide a sturdy platform for property development that benefits an entire community, rather than just deep-pocketed developers.

Think single family homes, dormitories, or re-purposed strip malls but don’t let your imagination stop there. Cooperatives offer a path to create life-supporting housing.

Single Family Home Cooperative

Single-family homes
Single-family homes, Wikipedia

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

Former convent on Ashland near Wilson, Chicago, IL

The boarding house model of bygone years is due for an update and maybe it’s in the form of a modern dormitory. Each building would have a household manager and, depending on the size, a cook. 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 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

Abandoned Strip Mall
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.

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 new vista of opportunities opens up.

A lot of residential and commercial property is languishing in the midst of what appears to be unlimited demand. With a little bit of vision, we could be on the cusp of a new golden age for real estate professionals.

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