Better Than Roommates: Housing Coops of Cook County

photo of panelists

Housing is key to human life, and with that thought, we opened the Summit with a discussion about housing cooperatives with a panel of experts.  Brigid Maniates (Qumbya Housing Cooperative General Manager) moderated a panel that included Liz Anderson (North American Students of Cooperation), John Arnold (Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants House of Hospitality/ICDI), and John Stoner (The HUB Housing Co-op).


How did the panelists become involved in cooperatives?

  • Worker coops drew Liz  into cooperatives by, but she later came to be involved in housing coops.
  • John A worked for ICDI and realized that a housing coop was the best method to help provide housing for the people his organization serves.
  • Friends introduced John S to the concept of housing cooperatives.

Different kinds of Equity

  • Most housing cooperatives operate on a group equity model, where the equity remains under the control of the organization and the members decide what to do with it. This method allows for growth, a community focus, and stability when turnover of residents is expected to be high.
  • NYC condo cooperatives as well as in the apartment cooperatives in Chicago on Lake Shore Drive use a market equity model. In this model, members own shares which can be bought and sold at market rates.

Who are the members of housing cooperatives?

  • NASCO records that a large portion of its members are LGBTQ, students, and/or white. The second most popular occupation for residents is work in some kind of cooperative.
  • ICDI works with immigrants and refugees. Their members are very community oriented.

How does Democracy work in a housing coop?

  • The democratic aspect can help people develop skills of compromise, consensus building, and parliamentary procedure.
  • Having to interact and solve problems with a diverse group of people using democratic processes helps people as citizens, and also shows them how nuanced some conflicts can be.

How do housing coops get the money to start?

  • Many organizations use the equity in buildings they already own to buy new properties.
  • Organizations often get loans to start up.

What equity model helps assure long term growth?

  • The group equity model provides the most popular model for self-sustained growth.
  • We can create limited equity models with a plan to scale up later, with part of the equity set aside to foster growth at a later date.

Do we have laws to empower coops?

  • Laws on the books help us incorporate as coops, but not many and we could benefit from more.