What is a Housing Co-operative?

There are many different ways in which people can work co-operatively to provide themselves with housing. None is necessarily better than another, each offers a different set of benefits that may suit a certain group or situation better than others, but they all have their respective advantages.

The common link between them is that they support the co-operative principles of:

  • Voluntary and Open Membership
  • Democratic Member Control
  • Member Economic Participation
  • Autonomy and Independence
  • Education, Training and Information
  • Co-operation Among Co-operatives
  • Concern for Community

Some of the ways in which people can form housing co-operatives include:


Squats are empty and disused buildings that have been occupied by people in need of housing. Squatting is not illegal. Squatting brings buildings back into use and prevents deterioration due to neglect.

If you wish to squat an empty building the Advisory Service for Squatters can provide lots of advice. They may be contacted at www.squatter.org.uk or by phoning 0845 644 5814.

Co-Housing Projects

Co-housing projects bring to benefits of co-operation to private ownership of property. Members of a co-housing project are required to buy a share in the property, which may be sold when they leave. The group will usually have the option to buy this and choose whom it is then sold on to.

Many co-housing schemes provide some shared living space, such as kitchens and communal living rooms, as well as self-contained private space. This allows residents to choose how much they want to socialise with others.

Friendly Societies

Housing co-operatives may choose to register as friendly societies under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. This creates a common ownership body; the property of such an organisation belongs to the co-operative movement as a whole, not to individual members.

These housing co-ops vary in size, some own just one house and house a few people, others own whole streets with over one hundred houses.

Every tenant of these co-ops is a member and has a say in how the co-op is run. In small co-ops the administration and maintenance is usually shared by members, larger co-ops can afford to pay staff to do this work.

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