Cooperative housing: a key model for sustainable housing in Europe



The conference will discuss and present what are housing coops and how they can answer future challenges. Cooperative housing represents an important part of the housing market in many countries in Europe. For instance, housing cooperatives manage over 3.5 million dwellings in Poland (about 27% of the total housing stock in the country in 2009), about 17% of the total housing stock in the Czech Republic and Sweden, 15% in Norway.

A housing cooperative is a housing business in the form of a consumer cooperative mutually owned by its members, which operates in accordance with the Cooperative Principles and Values. The cooperative housing movement has a long history. The first housing cooperatives were formed in the mid 19th century, when Viktor Aimé Huber initiated the construction of several dwellings in Berlin. Today, housing cooperatives are increasingly widespread in Europe and beyond.

There are different cooperative housing models in the different countries, but what characterises housing cooperatives compared to their housing providers is that they are jointly owned and democratically controlled by their members, according to the principle of “one person, onevote”. This has clear implications for the way they operate compared to other actors on the housing market and benefits not only their members but also the public interest.

Today, housing cooperatives as well as other affordable housing providers are faced with a number of challenges,such as adapting to the changing demand improving the sustainability of the housing stock as well as the environmental quality of the neighbourhoods, and coping with unfavourable conditions on the financial and housing markets. Nevertheless, so far the crisis had a negative impact on housing cooperatives but new solutions are being explored both in terms of tenures (increase in provision of dwellings for rent as well as intermediate tenures, for instance in Spain) and financing (cooperation with saving institutions in Germany, creation of ethical revolving funds in Italy).

The cooperative business model in the housing sector has some characteristics which could prove key to the success of housing cooperatives in the future, but there are also challenges to overcome. This is the aim of the conference to better illustrate how values make a strong business case adapted to future challenges.

More information is available here

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