The Evolution of Cooperative Housing

October 18, 2019 | by Anna Orendain

Categories: Affordable Housing, Rental Housing

What comes to mind when you hear the term “co-op housing?” For many people, it conjures up images of commune-style housing from the past; but cooperative housing (also known as co-living) is on the rise, and it's evolving to offer residents more benefits than ever before.

Cooperative housing has traditionally been defined as any type of housing that is owned and controlled by a group of individuals who share equal ownership of and rights to the housing in question. also points out that co-op housing can be market rate, limited equity (members are limited in how much equity they can earn), and zero equity (co-op members accrue no equity in the property but pay rents lower than market value).

The latest iteration of co-op housing combines the cost-effectiveness of the traditional housing cooperative with a more modern, collaborative approach that seems to appeal to individuals of all age groups. In fact, co-living properties have seen a steady rise in demand, especially in coastal states such as New York and California.

There, several housing companies such as WeLive and Open Door offer rental units in apartment buildings and houses, at a significantly lower rate than surrounding rental units that aren’t cooperative.

Community (and Privacy) for All Ages

While critics like to think of co-living as dormitories for adults, the concept behind co-housing can hold a lot of appeal for the right tenants. After all, many cooperatives now offer private bedrooms and bathrooms, high-end furnishings, and complimentary housekeeping in all common areas.

With any concerns about privacy and common-area cleanliness taken care of, residents of these new-age cooperatives can focus on finding friends within their home.

As one co-living participant states in a Business Insider article, co-housing gives him an opportunity to socialize outside of work. And many co-living properties are designed in a way to facilitate a feeling of community amongst members, while also allowing for privacy when desired.

Oakcreek Community, a senior co-housing community in Stillwater, Oklahoma, was specifically designed to help retirement-age individuals avoid loneliness and isolation. All Oakcreek residents can own their own residence, but are required to attend community meetings and participate in at least two group activities.

Co-Living and its impact on affordability observes that many co-living spaces were designed to optimize density and affordability, meaning that co-housing can serve as a reasonably-priced housing option, especially in already-crowded major cities.

Cooperative housing won’t just stand to benefit renters looking for cheaper rental prices either; it has the potential to house Americans most in need, such as low-income families and individuals that may be disabled, elderly, or experiencing homelessness.

But as cited by U.S. Housing and Urban Development, there are some barriers to building more co-living properties. Zoning policies, building codes, and neighborhood attitudes towards communal living can limit progress in expanding this type of housing stock.  

On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.


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Hi Catherine, unfortunately, at this time we do not offer financing for cooperative housing through our homeownership programs. We’d recommend checking with other local and statewide housing organizations for more options.


I’m trying to find out about financing for Co-Op living. In North Richland Hills Texas.

Laura Ross

Hi Judy - David Danenfelzer, TSAHC’s Senior Director of Development Finance, can help answer any questions you may have. His number is 512-477-3562.

Judy Telge

Do you have information about this model/concept being utilized in properties supported with HUD 811, 202 and/or LIHTC properties?

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