Housing Cooperative I

Here we describe an American housing cooperative that remains anonymous. It was founded by the tenants in 1990 in context of gentrification. The tenants desire to own and control their housing.

The description is based on an Interview with Amanda Huron, phd researcher on housing cooperatives, which took place in Potsdam/Germany, August 14 & 15, 2017.

What's dear to them is keeping the housing affordable and a nice place to live, especially within a gentrifying neighborhood. (A. Huron)

# Aspirational Goals prevent speculation, preserve affordability and encourage long-term residency

# Legal Status and Location?

Transported image. source

# When did it start?

1990. During the organzing process, tenants paid for a share to become cooperative members.

# Finances and Partnerships

The buildings owned by the coop members were purchased with financial assistance from the city in the form of low-interest or even zero interest loans. [DB: Both?? Unclear if the loans were to the coop or to members directly. -> to the coop, right Amanda?] Thereafter, members bought a share of the property owned by the collective.

In addition to their equity shares, members pay a monthly fee to cover operational expenses for the building. Several members receive public subsidies to meet this expense, which enables low-income members to reside there.


# Which Core Dimensions of Commoning are enacted? - Cultivate Shared Purpose & Values. The coop has a shared purpose to keep the housing affordable and well maintained, but in practice, it is not "very well cultivated intentionally" or "unevenly cultivated," in the words of two members. - Ensure Fair Abundance. Housing has been decommodified through the cooperative ownership, rendering moot market comparisons about the value of one's housing ("My house is worth 300k USD and yours is 500k USD.") There are one-bedroom and two-bedroom flats in the coop's buildings, and people sometimes share or switch flats according to their needs (e.g., as children grow up and leave home). The building is four stores tall, but has no elevator. Some members might switch apartments so that older people can live on the lower floor. The different relationship to the property makes these kinds of adaptions easier. - There is no intentional effort or ongoing practice to Strengthen the Nested I. Coop members have different degrees of interest in wanting to build community and strengthen bonds, but in general connections arise through socializing and meetings. Sometimes coop meetings can get contentious and difficult, and yet there will always be somebody who reminds everyone, "We are all in this together" and makes clear that "We cannot do this alone."

- Decouple Giving & Taking is not a generalized practice, but some examples stand out, for example, residents' switching apartments. Water and heating services are collectively billed and paid in equal amounts by all members even though...

"Two bedroom apartments probably use more heat in the winter but it doesn't matter. It's just payed by the collective."

- Practice Gentle Reciprocity. One example is how the cooperative is willing to work out special arrangements to take account of individual circumstances. A low-income family, for example, which might have trouble buying a share for 6,000 USD, may be allowed to pay the share in installments over time, without interest. To put it in the words of a coop member: "I think we do good with that." - Deepen Interdependence on Nature. This is not a significant issue for the coop. However it has put solar panels on the roof, it covers the cost of common electricity use, and some members take care for gardens for food and flowers. - Trust Situated Knowing. Only a few people remain from the very beginning of the coop, but one coop member cited one co-resident who "really knows the building, the block, the people, and has a kind of wisdom about the project and has a more direct way to answer to problems than some abstract or bureaucratic solutions because she has been around for a long time, has a lot of experience and just 'knows better.' People trust that. 'She is the elder of the project.'" - Preserve Relationships in Addressing Conflicts. "It's really just meeting face-and-face and talking about it, sometimes very emotionally. But being direct and meeting and taking, that's it. In terms of communication in general, we have people in the building that are not really comfortable with English - so for the first time we decided to pay a simultaneous translator in a situation of conflict and we wanted to really be clear that everybody knew what was going on. And we will do this more often in the future." - Reflect upon Your Peer-Governance. ADD TEXT HERE

# Peer-Governance in the Commons

- Develop Shared Purpose & Values. The chief vehicle for shared purpose is self-determined bylaws, which are required for non-profit organizations. But the coop's bylaws are partly based on those from similar projects, and drafted with the help of legal experts. "The bylaws guide our decision-making," says one coop member. House rules are completely self-determined. Mission statement? Unclear.

- Assure Commoners' Consent in Decisionmaking. The Board makes most of the decisions face-to-face; if it has to spend a certain amount of money, such as 25,000 USD. The whole membership needs to be involved in such decisions, which are made by majority vote. This is also the procedure for board decisionmaking. - Set Semi-Permeable Boundaries. The coop is flexible in dealing with outsiders. For example: "On paper you cannot move in unless you pay the full share fee, but - you know - we help the guy out." Similarly for approval of new residents: "Technically, on paper, if you are living in the building you need to be approved in by the board. But in practice, if some of the grownup sons move back, they probably won't be registered - because, you know - his mom helped construct the building." - Relationalize Property. "Well, that's what we are doing." Architecturally speaking we are part of seven identical buildings. They look exactly the same but, to the left of us is a market-rate condominium, to the right of us a luxury rental building. So people are paying huge amounts of money there. So we look the same but are very different. We could raise a huge amount of money if we would buy and sell on the market. Our property has been decommodified to a certain degree, as our priority is affordability. The Coop owns the land and the building. The individual members buy a share that entitles them to use of the unit. People consider it as "their unit," but it is clearly a case of possession and not full, individual property rights. If members want to leave the project they can "sell their share back" but for the same amount of money they bought it -- i.e., for 6,000 USD - which one coop member regards as "ridiculous." This is linked to the dimension of Protect & Create Value Sovereignty - Ritualize Togetherness. "You know, we don't do that very well." - Share Knowledge Often and Widely. Newsletter, but not often and widely enough. But there are a lot of housing coops in town and once a year there is "Coop Clinic" - a daylong, citywide coop-training. - Honor Transparency in a Sphere of Trust. We are about to open a digital platform where we post the minutes ("You make me think, that we should post the financial reports too.") When members move in, the coops runs a credit check and a criminal check. After that, there is no more checking of individual earnings etc. - Self-Monitor, Mediate & Sanction - [Respect Human Dimensions] - Establish Discrimination-Free Infrastructures


@Amanda - here is a question: What kind of "constituting tools" (statues, a charter or another kind of document or process) the coop has been using. And is it important to the members? Single out which kind of tools are used and tag them with: Constituting Tools and/or Knowledge Creation and/or Socializing Tools and/or Infrastructures and/or Finance and/or Laws

ontological ground and political culture

# Inner Kernel

- Relational categories: mother-daugther-mutual, mutualization, share - Epistemology: - Ubuntu-Rationality:


# Realms of Commoning

Air&Atmosphere (Solar Panels; 24 families in one only buidling in a dense urban environment), Democratic Innovation, Energy, Food (very small scale), Housing, Land (urban land use), Learning, Mobility (not the common individual transport pattern in the USA), Spaces for Commoning

# Sources

Interview with Amanda Huron, Potsdam/Germany, August 14 and 15, 2017 NAHC (2012): Housing Cooperatives in the USA, pdf

# Additional Information - Be Creatively Adaptive, We have a tension between those who want to do it as established in procedures and others who want to be really creative, but this tension is probably good. But not sure we have a good example for this.