A housing cooperative is a type of property use and ownership in which all residents own shares of the property and share the responsibilities of upkeep and operations. Many housing co-ops are run as small corporations, with those that live on the property comparable to a board of directors. While belonging to a co-op gives tenants less freedom that owning a private residence, tenants have more say in major property decisions than renters.
There are many different kinds of housing cooperative examples that suit the needs of different people. Seniors, students, families, members of religious organizations, disabled people, and artists can all find an alternative form of householding in a housing cooperative. Oftentimes, the property is owned by the cooperative company, but some co-ops lease property from a single owner instead.
Members of a cooperative usually pay a monthly fee much like renters, that covers their share of utilities, mortgage payment, and upkeep. Shareholders often run cooperatives democratically, allowing each member or family a vote in property decisions, including the admission of new members. Some cooperatives also operate a community-owned business, such as a nursery, farm, or craft store. Profits are generally shared among residents that contribute to the business in some way.
The benefits of a housing cooperative include an increased sense of community and democratic method of making property decisions. Successful cooperatives are often like an extended family, with members sharing tasks like babysitting, tending a community garden, and sharing holidays together. Additionally,some regions offer tax breaks and special deductions for cooperatives, but these should be carefully checked against local tax law to avoid discrepancies.
There are potential downsides to a housing cooperative that should be considered. Sometimes, regular apartment buildings are turned into co-ops and residents are given the choice of buying shares or moving out, forcing those who may not prefer a co-op lifestyle into one if they want to keep their home. If a co-op board makes a decision that forces changes on a property that a resident disagrees with, it is often impossible to sue as the resident is a part owner of the corporation.
Additionally, some co-ops have very specific ethical codes and belief systems that may cause new or different residents to feel out of place or unaccepted. In smaller co-ops that are meant to be tightly knit communities, those with a different opinion than the majority or residents can cause strife and discord. Much like a family, a housing cooperative can be quite dysfunctional if not run carefully and respectfully.