What Are Housing Co-operatives?

Co-operatives — the term may well sound very familiar. We may idea of what they are and how they work, but what exactly is a housing co-operative? Do different models exist? What approaches to co-operative housing are there? What are the funding systems? Over the course of this article, we’ll aim to explain what exactly housing co-operatives are, how they function in Ireland and what you can do if you’re interested in joining or establishing one.

We see a lot in the media about the potential of housing co-operatives to: help avoid ‘Generation Rent’, find solutions to accessing affordable housing, and to access housing for €140,000 in Dublin. Before we dive into the potential of co-operative housing (and we will do that) let’s start with a working definition of what co-operatives are. Typically we understand them as ‘an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations, through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.’ This can be better understood as an approach where people voluntary work together to ensure they have a house (co-operative housing), access to credit (credit unions) and livelihoods (farming co-ops & co-operative companies). A co-operative emphasises democracy in our communities and ensures that people support each other to ensure that they can fully participate in society.

Founded in 1973, Co-operative housing Ireland (formerly NABCO) has over 45 years experience supporting the development of housing co-operatives in Ireland. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about the different types of housing co-operatives available.

The most commonly understood form of housing co-operative is a model called Shared Equity Co-operatives. These are typically where a number of people pool their resources together to purchase land and develop housing units to live in. However, there are a number of different options available when exploring joining or establishing a housing co-operative.

Within Ireland, there a variety of approaches taken to co-operative housing, the most common of which are typically;

Social rented housing co-operatives — provide housing to members who are usually recruited from Local Authority waiting lists in the areas where co-ops are located. A list of local social rented housing co-operatives is available here ??

    Home-ownership co-operatives — help members who have the financial capacity to do so, to build or buy their own homes. Most of these co-operatives have been developed in the Dublin area.

    Co-ownership co-operatives allow for members who live in apartment blocks or townhouses with shared common areas or facilities to organise the management and maintenance of those areas.

    Mixed tenure co-operatives are usually larger housing co-operatives where it has been possible to provide a mix of rental and ownership types across the development.

Across Europe, we similarly see a number of different approaches being taken to the provision of co-operative housing. For example, co-operative housing across Europe is seen as a popular mode of housing provision, with 18% of housing units in Sweden, 15% in Norway, 8% in Austria and 6% in Germany co-operative housing.

The success is usually the development of co-operative housing in these countries is for a number of reasons. Most notably, however, it is the understanding of housing ways in which housing is viewed in these countries years experience different to the usual perspective in Ireland. The focus on co-operatives is into the long-term has been a key tenet of the approach taken in these countries and is Social rented vital when it comes to the development of co-operative housing units. An alternative to speculation driven approaches to housing affords members of co-operative security, stability and sustainability.

If you are interested in finding out more about co-operative housing, or if you would like to join / establish a co-operative, be sure to get in touch.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (01) 6612877