History of NAHC

Organizers of the Greenbelt Veterans Housing Corporation (Maryland) and Pennypack Woods cooperative (Philadelphia) initiated the concept of a national association of housing cooperatives in the 1950s. Mike Salzman, president of Greenbelt and Stanley J. Sheehan, organizer, Pennypack Woods, thought housing cooperatives needed a national association to represent their needs before the U.S. Congress. Wally Campbell, Washington director of the Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA) and Jerry Voorhis, its CEO, also voiced their support for a national association.

Organized in 1952, the Foundation for Cooperative Housing (FCH) and the FCH Company (later renamed FCH Services, Inc.), a wholly-owned operating subsidiary, sought to use the (then) newly established Section 213 of the National Housing Act to finance a nationwide program of consumer-sponsored housing cooperatives.

In the mid-1950s, FCH began sponsoring annual meetings of cooperative sponsors and developers in Washington, DC, with support from the United Housing Foundation (UHF), CLUSA, the AFL-CIO’s Housing Division and Nationwide Insurance Company, the major cooperative in the insurance industry. The primary audience for these early annual meetings: non-profit and other developers considering new housing projects under the Investor-Sponsor program.

By the late 1950s, Campbell, Voorhis and others were ready to organize a National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC). With their help, they secured initial sponsorship and financial support from the UHF, the AFL-CIO’s Housing Division, Nationwide Insurance, CLUSA, and FCH.

By 1960, FCH had already begun organizing associations of housing cooperatives in areas where Foundation trustees sponsored a large number of new housing cooperatives, including in Michigan and California, which continue as active members of NAHC today, as the Midwest Association of Housing Cooperatives and the California Association of Housing Cooperatives. Also during the 1960s, FCH encouraged additional regional associations, one of which is an active NAHC member today: the Potomac Association of Housing Cooperatives.

In its early years, most of the original sponsoring members (including the UHF, AFL-CIO and Nationwide Insurance) supported NAHC through annual dues and other forms of support; CLUSA, the Foundation and FCH provided free office space and office services. And the CLUSA provided its staff to produce a quarterly Cooperative Housing Bulletin. As NAHC membership grew, dues and conference income provided funding. Trustees of the Foundation sponsored most of the FCH cooperatives. FCH Services, Inc., provided not only initial design, organizing and marketing services but also initial management. In addition, FCH, whose staff was primarily recruited from members and elected officers of housing cooperatives, had an unofficial policy through 1970 of providing continuing support as needed for every new cooperative it helped establish. This approach also led to FCH support of NAHC and its regional associations.

The most difficult aspect of establishing NAHC as a meaningful national organization was securing agreement on its initial by-laws, which were drafted by a committee including Voorhis and Campbell. The UHF delegation (led by Abraham Kazan), insisted that the new organization limit activities to “research, education and inspiration,” following UHF’s model. Kazan insisted that NAHC must not have a fee-for-service agreement with its members. This limitation was incorporated in the NAHC by-laws where it remained until the 1990s.

In the 1990s, NAHC sponsored a growing number of annual conferences and workshops for professionals and other interested in trying to find better ways to finance and develop housing cooperatives, especially for moderate and lower income families. For more affluent families, the condominium form of ownership has generally been favored over the management type cooperative form — except in New York City where its special laws and regulations continue to support development of housing cooperatives for higher income families.

As spelled out in its by-laws, NAHC has always been a voluntary membership organization, with its regional, individual and professional members free to join or withdraw at any time. All cooperative housing members pledge to support the Rochdale principles which include a one member, one vote principle.However, in New York, a vast majority of housing cooperatives are formed under the New York State Business Corporation Laws. Under this Corporation law, a cooperative can issue a different number of shares to different units, requiring voting by the number of shares held and also requiring that shares initially be issued on the basis of cooperative member cash investments which usually are higher for larger units.

Types of Members include:

  • Associations and federations of housing cooperatives organized around a special-interest and/or a geographic region
  • Individual housing cooperatives
  • Organizations and professionals (such as attorneys, property management firms, nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, accountants, government agencies, and consultants) that provide services to housing cooperatives
  • Groups and individuals that develop housing cooperatives
  • Registered Cooperative Managers
  • Other individuals and organizations involved in housing cooperatives