Cooperative Housing

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"Co-operative housing is community-led housing, managed, and in some cases owned, in accordance with co-operative values and principles. It involves a legal, democratic community membership being involved in decision making about their homes. It is different from other forms of housing because it is about encouraging and supporting local community control over housing and neighbourhoods. It is not a one-size fits all solution. Its principles can be applied in many different ways to meet the needs of local stakeholders." (


Switzerland: Cooperative housing, Zurich’s solution to a lack of land regulation

David Robertson:

"In Zurich, much like in Rio de Janeiro, there are no regulations on land prices or rent controls (which are a common strategy to contain rents from Washington, DC and New York to Los Angeles). To maintain affordable housing, the city either constructs and owns apartments for those in need (9,700 units), or subsidizes the construction of affordable housing by non-profit organizations (6,700 units). Most of the affordable units in Switzerland are instead owned by cooperatives (approximately 40,000 units). These organizations must be non-profits for residential purposes. Local governments must approve the rent rates and must have one representative on the cooperative governing board. The local states must also approve cooperative accounts and are responsible for disputes between tenants and co-op residents.

The federal government also plays an important role in funding cooperatives, regulates minimum space standards, and produces research on affordable housing. The National Association of Cooperatives allocates federal money to cooperatives as 10-year loans with a low interest rate. Recently, cooperatives that emphasize eco-friendly housing and energy conservation have received more funding.

Three examples of cooperatives in Zurich are:

  • Kraftwerk, created in 1995 by student activists who raised 20% of the money to fund the purchase of the site. There are 91 housing units, office units, two shops and a cafe on the property.
  • Dreiecke, which was originally a city block seized by the government in the 1970s to construct a highway. When the highway proposal was not completed, local housing fell into disarray. The City wanted to demolish the properties, but resistance led to the creation of a CLT to preserve affordable housing for those who were squatting on the land already.
  • Karthago is a cooperative at the site of a former Toyota showroom. A local group of activists set up the cooperative with the proposal to convert the building into 25 units of housing including a shared kitchen and dining area."


Uruguay: Nuevo Amanecer, housing and family cooperative and Ufama al Sur Cooperative

David Robertson:

"Uruguayan cooperative housing emerged in 1968 in the wake of a widespread housing crisis. The system is called a “mutual aid cooperative” and relies on the joint physical labor of its members, who must contribute at least 10% of the labor and capital to build the homes. Once the members have covered all the housing costs through their monthly payments, they become owners of the properties.

Nuevo Amanecer (NA) is located in Montevideo and consists of 423 households. The community was built on the outskirts of the city and men and women alike were each required to contribute 21 hours of hard work each week in construction. Homes were built to meet varying household sizes and needs, and the community built all of the infrastructure systems like water and electrical lines themselves.

The Housing and Family Cooperative (COVIFAM) is a member of the nationally-based federation of 300 housing cooperatives. Similar to Nuevo Amanecer, community members contributed to building the community. Each family has the right to use their home, but homes are owned by the cooperative. All decisions made in the cooperative are democratic through weekly meetings that continue even after construction ends.

Finally, the Cooperativa Ufama al Sur was created in 1998 by a local community-based organization. This specific cooperative is made up of Afro-Uruguayan women-headed households who live in an abandoned warehouse building that was sold to the cooperative by the municipality at a subsidized rate to create 36 apartments." (

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