How to find a housing cooperative
Housing cooperatives are quite common in certain parts of the country, such as New York City, Washington, D.C. , and Chicago, but can be harder to find in other areas. Searching the UHAB Research Project, Cooperative USA Share Listing Program or contacting your Regional Member Association, are the best ways to find a cooperative in your area. Often your yellow pages will list cooperatives under the apartment section.
If you are interested in living in a cooperative, keep in mind that costs for buying into a cooperative can vary greatly depending on the type of cooperative, neighborhood, and amenities. Some limited-equity cooperatives have maximum income eligibility requirements. If you’ve previously lived in a cooperative, don’t assume that another cooperative will be similar to the one you are familiar with. Be sure to ask the right questions to make sure you understand the policies and costs of the cooperative.
Why there may not be any cooperatives where you are looking.
While cooperatives were created as long ago as the 1920’s to 40’s in New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC, most cooperatives were formed in the period just after World War II until the mid-1970’s. During most of this period, cooperatives were the only path to homeownership in multifamily buildings. They were formed where population was dense at that time and where suburbanization was also taking place—the Northeast, the industrial Midwest, and a few other major cities, such as San Francisco. Except for Southeast Florida and Atlanta, there were few cooperatives formed in the South, in part because the population growth in the South did not take place until the 70s, and in part because the majority of cooperatives formed in this period were formed with some help from state and local government, and from the Federal Housing Administration. Although fair housing did not become the law of the land until 1968, cooperatives formed with government assistance were required to adhere to non-discrimination in sales and marketing, and that requirement was not readily accepted in the South at that time.
The boom in condominiums and planned developments in the 1970s to the present followed the population shift to the South, West, and Southwest. Shortly after the 70’s, FHA and state government cooperative programs fell by the wayside, despite their excellent track record. Throughout the US, cooperative formation became a niche development, except in the Greater New York City area, where cooperative formation still outpaces condos and planned developments. Cooperative development today for low and moderate income families is succeeding where there is active community support with local government and non-profit sponsors, or active tenant populations.
Know what you are looking for.
About half of all cooperatives are limited equity cooperatives. Resale prices and profits are controlled. Most limited equity cooperatives require that you be below a certain income level in order to buy. Purchase of the shares or membership in the cooperative will require a cash payment, acceptable credit history, and a good rental history with previous landlords.
Many have a waiting list. Your local city housing department may have a list in your area.
The other half of cooperatives are “market rate.” Prices of shares or memberships are determined in a free market between buyers and sellers. Be sure you know whether the price being asked is inclusive or exclusive of the portion of the blanket mortgage on the building. Because the cooperative depends on your prompt payment of monthly charges to pay the blanket mortgage, real estate taxes, utilities, etc., you will need to show the cooperative a good credit history, and a willingness to accept cooperative governance and rules. Openings are often advertised in the real estate section of the newsletter. Qualified real estate agents can also help you find openings.
Several smaller limited equity and tenant converted buildings.
Cooperatives are commonly concentrated in the following areas:
- Boston: Limited equity cooperatives are often small buildings. Many have waiting lists. New ones being formed by tenants with some regularity.
- New York City and surrounding counties: Thirty percent of all housing in New York City is cooperative. Market rate cooperatives can be found in the real estate section of major city papers. Many have a waiting list. If buying a new or newly converted cooperative from a sponsor/developer, read the public offering statement carefully as to conditions and promises. Limited equity cooperatives have long waiting lists. A good source of new ones being formed is www.uhab.org
- New Jersey: Older limited equity cooperatives can be found in Newark and Elizabeth. Market rate cooperatives can be found north of Newark to the GW Bridge. There are several retirement cooperatives in central New Jersey.
- Philadelphia: Several market rate cooperatives in Center City. A few limited equity cooperatives in surrounding suburbs.
- Pittsburgh: Many post-war conversions of World War II government-sponsored rental housing to cooperatives in the industrial suburbs. A few market rate cooperatives in the city.
- Baltimore: One large post-war conversion in the city as well as several market rate cooperatives. City government has helped develop some limited equity cooperatives. Nothing in the suburbs.
- Washington, DC
- Market rate cooperatives in NW dating from the 1920s to 50’s, especially along Connecticut Avenue, and a few from the 60’s in SW. City-wide and neighborhood newspapers carry ads
- Over 100 tenant-sponsored conversions to cooperative in close in neighborhoods from the 1980’s to present; some are limited equity, some are not; need for rehab varies.
- A few larger cooperatives, notably Greenbelt Homes (circa 1930’s), in the inner suburbs. One retirement cooperative and less than a handful of limited equity cooperatives in the outer suburbs.
- Atlanta: Nearly 20 limited equity cooperatives, mostly southeast, but newer ones in Mid-town.
- South Florida: New Yorkers retired in droves to South Florida, from Palm Beach to Miami. They knew the benefits of cooperatives, and cooperative developers had no problem selling retirement cooperatives in this market in the 50’s and 60’s. Local real estate agents can help locate openings.
- Indianapolis: One of the largest concentrations in the midwest for a city of its size. All but one are limited equity.
- Detroit and Southeast Michigan: Beneficiary of tens of thousands of new construction townhouse and garden cooperatives done post-war for a resurgent auto industry and returning GI’s starting delayed families. Mostly limited equity; some, in tight markets such as Ann Arbor, are almost the only source of affordable housing. For a list, send a self-addressed, stamped #10 envelope to MAHC, PO Box 760, Taylor MI 48180.
- Chicago: Market rate cooperatives can be found in posh high rises on the Gold Coast, affordable walk ups in Hyde Park, and well kept garden style buildings in Park Forest. Limited equity cooperatives are mostly south side, but a few can be found in near north.
- Minneapolis: Scandanavian traditions support cooperatives of all sizes. Most are market rate, but very affordable. Several new retirement cooperatives, smaller ones in rural areas, larger ones in suburbia.
- Kansas City: The westernmost limit of cooperatives until you get to Arizona. A well-established pocket of limited equity cooperatives.
- Arizona: A few limited equity cooperatives in Tucson and Phoenix. Several market rate snowbird and retirement cooperatives in and around Phoenix.
- Southern California: Two giant retirement cooperatives in Orange County. Market rate cooperatives with cachet from the 1920’s to the 50’s in LA. Limited equity cooperatives mostly in South LA, and a few near Hollywood.
- San Francisco and Northern California: High end market rate where you would expect in SF; limited equity in several redevelopment areas such as the Western Addition. One large retirement cooperative in Walnut Creek. Sacramento has a handful of limited equity cooperatives, mostly south.
- Seattle: Several smaller limited equity and tenant converted buildings.
Search your local housing authority’s website to find a housing cooperative in your state. For a complete listing or to speak to a multifamily housing consultant, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website for more information about HUD approved cooperatives in your area.
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