Co-op Housing: An Effective Approach to Meeting Global Housing Needs

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 

                         July, 1996

Source : ICA News 2/1996

          Co-op Housing - An Effective Approach to Meeting  
                       Global Housing Needs

As resources for housing services become more scarce, new
approaches to co-operative housing are emerging to maximize
capital and human investments. In developing economies and
emerging democracies in particular, co-operative housing
provides a rational and dynamic framework within which public
and private resources are brought to bear in a cost effective

For the past 44 years, the Cooperative Housing Foundation
(CHF) of the United States has worked at the grassroots,
municipal, and national levels and with key elements of civil
society to promote co-operative and community development in
more than 90 countries worldwide. CHF has built on this
experience and on time-tested co-operative principles to
develop pragmatic, innovative, private-sector assistance
directed at co-operative and economic development, human
settlements and planning. CHF's promotion of market-based
co-operative development, credit and finance, jobs creation,
institution building and policy formulation enables families
to live in better, healthier and cleaner environments.

While national policies and systems do provide the necessary
framework to improve the delivery of affordable housing, CHF
has found that large-scale policy reforms are most effective
when accompanied and reinforced by a tangible demonstration of
their potential benefits. Co-operatives provide a way to bring
about positive and visible change at the grassroots,
"consumer" level. Demonstration projects organized around
co-operative principles can increase the magnitude of those
changes and positively impact the society at large. This
philosophy, rooted in the basic tenets of the co-operative
movement, has enabled CHF to successfully implement a wide
range of activities throughout the world. CHF is currently
active in more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle
East, Central/Eastern Europe and the NIS region, Latin America
and the Caribbean. CHF's projects have varied in scope from
creating small home-improvement co-operatives in Ecuador and
Paraguay, to assisting in such watershed events as helping
South African authorities incorporate co-operative housing
into the country's new social housing strategy and
establishing the first housing co-operatives in Poland to
successfully secure commercial US-style mortgages. 

In Ecuador and Paraguay, CHF is working to strengthen the role
of co-operatives in meeting the shelter needs of low-income
families. CHF is providing technical assistance to credit
unions and co-operative members in implementing lending

With this assistance, low-income families are able to build a
new house or make significant home improvements.

In South Africa, CHF is helping to introduce co-operative
housing to assist the large numbers of South Africans
previously disenfranchised and excluded from the formal
housing delivery system. The programme is based on community
involvement and incorporates co-operative mechanisms which
have not been widely used in South Africa. CHF is mobilizing
local resources to implement a co-operative housing project in
the city of Port Elizabeth which will provide a model for
replication throughout the country.

CHF's co-operative development project in Poland provides
another kind of model which "activates" policy reform to
produce real and replicable results at the local level. Since
1990, CHF has assisted in developing market-oriented, private
capacity for housing delivery. All houses are built from the
private funds of local co-operative members, supplemented by
mortgage credit obtained through the newly implemented housing
finance system in Poland. With this activity, CHF is helping
to pioneer ways to develop affordable housing and
institutional structures that can be adapted to a new economic
order in Poland. Since 1994, production of co-operative
housing has been replicated at eleven additional sites. The
project demonstrates how co-operative housing operates as a
viable, housing delivery system.

Due to their universal nature, co-operative values can be
readily applied to many types of organizations including
condominium associations, non-governmental and community-based
organizations. While CHF assists many different groups with
diverse needs, all programmes incorporate the co-operative
values of self-help, democracy, equality, equity and
solidarity. CHF works with women's groups on social and
economic empowerment issues; with informal settlements to
improve the urban environment through appropriate technology;
with low-income families to marshal their resources
effectively through incremental building and affordable
credit; and with neon-governmental organizations to address
local needs for shelter and infrastructure.   

CHF promotes the development of co-operatives around the world
to serve the needs of communities which do not have access to
adequate shelter, encouraging self-reliance, democratic
principles and private sector involvement. CHF's work is
illustrative of how co-operative values and principles can be
incorporated into national policies to satisfy the very basic
need of adequate shelter for All.

The Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF) was established in
1952 as a private, nonprofit organization to help low-income
families build better housing and communities.