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4 Things You Need to Start a Housing Co-op

To develop a cooperative housing project, you need four different resources. No one person will have access to all these resources, you should strive to have one or two of these, and if you have two, it is feasible to hire people to support the other two. If you only have one, getting another one to support your efforts will be challenging. 


Co-op Members





Since need all four, think about how you can get all of them personally or convince people who have the pieces you are missing to work on your project. 


Co-op Members

The goal of organizing your co-op members is that when the co-op launches, you have minimal vacancies and a functional cooperative. You need to show that you have enough people with the right skill set to occupy the co-op you start. 

You might already have this or be able to acquire this quickly  if you

  • are highly social or a natural leader with diverse connections
  • Are well connected with organizations or groups who are interested in this idea

If you don’t already have this, you can acquire them through

  • Building a community around your idea through your friends or online
  • Joining and finding organizations that could help,

Most people I work with want to start co-ops because they want to live in one. Given that, you will likely find this Cooperative Housing Toolbox by the North Country Cooperative Foundation helpful.


The land and the building your co-op will occupy. There are many different styles of buildings and each style will how the legal, financial, and community pieces all fit together. 

You might already have property if you 

  • Own land
  • Work as a rental agent or property manager

If you don’t have property you can acquire it or minimize your reliance on it

  • Work with a realtor to find these buildings
  • Rent instead of own



You might already have financing or be able to quickly acquire this if 

  • You are wealthy
  • Work with an organization with enough capital to expand

If you don’t have financing you can acquire it or minimize your reliance on it

  • Working with people with enough wealth to guarantee loans
  • Rent instead of own
  • Create a fundraising plan



Even if you have a perfect property, you may not legally be able to operate a co-op due to zoning and land use regulations. You might have this skill if

  • You can independently verify whether a property is viable to be used a co-op
  • Understand how to rezone or acquire conditional use permits. 

If you don’t understand entitlements, you can acquire them or minimize your reliance on them

  • Have a team member that can evaluate the entitlements and work on rezoning and conditional use permits
  • Only focus on properties that do not require rezoning or a conditional use permit. 


Many people find starting a co-op overwhelming and have a hard time starting. It seems like a chicken or egg type of problem. It is more productive to think of an interactive loop. Pick the thing that seems to most fit your skills, focus on that, then work on and recruit people for the other things and if people don’t turn you down immediately, keep them in the loop. Success looks like not being turned down, which turns into a tentative yes, which turns into a definite yes.