Community Living 3: Co-Living, Collectives, Cooperatives


Our first introduction to fostering relationships with our co-inhabitants is often with our family, siblings parents, then friends and roomates as we grow. The Home is the original intentional community.  We Co-Live with our parents and brothers and sisters, and sometimes extended family and we learn to navigate our personal spheres and they interact with others.

“Fundamentally, coliving is a cultural distinction, as it can encompass many structural forms, including rental and ownership, urban and rural.  Still, in its current embodiment, coliving tends to be urban and integrated into a single building, house, or apartment.  And the demographics tend towards 20 and 30 something professionals more than families, boomers, and retirees.” -Open Door, Oakland

Density is coming; as City planners adjust zoning to accommodate denser communities and move away from the sprawl, and as the price of housing soars against wages, affordable housing comes in the form of shared space.   Project founder Elvina Beck demonstrates an increasingly popular form of Co-Living and sharing space in her project Podshare. High density urban infill projects with small units, shared amenities, and affordability are making Co-Living a very viable and appealing option for many looking for housing. Some of these units may be as simple as renting a bunk space in shared room.

“Elvina’s branding strategy saunters past the notions of dorm rooms and hostels into a fully-fledged lifestyle: sexless, drug-free, self-policed communalism for adults that is designed to encourage “collisions”, a term referring to unexpected social interactions.”

Sociocracy” is a method for dynamic governance that the Co-Housing movement promotes and employs.  It’s a self governance system which seeks to achieve solutions that create harmonious social environments as well as productive organizations and businesses.

Companies like Wework have gotten into the development of Co-Living shared housing, resembling a dormitory or bunkhouse lifestyle. Development companies like Common are building and Property Managing shared houses that they design and maintain.

Co-living as term means little more than living with a roommate or sharing housing in some form or another. Renting a room, sharing a house with friends, a homestay or boarding; this model can take many forms and is a common model many us experience at some point in our lives. CO-Living often implies no formal ownership model and for most involves an absentee landlord to whom rent is paid. No equity is typically earned or owned by the renter. Co-living is a great first step to finding your community and learning and practicing social skills like conflict and dispute resolution, communication and cooperation.


A Housing Collective is often defined as group that that comes together or is bound by certain shared values or purpose. The purposes may vary widely from one collective to the next. Artists collectives are common as are musicians, visual artists, theater groups. These types of groups have a well-established precedent in American Society.  The ownership model for Collectives may vary and often have no formal structure.  Some Collectives have developed ownership models for its members or were developed with the intent to give ownership opportunities to the community but most often Collectives offer little equity but offer instead exclusive membership. When ownership, and a share of production, or equity is offered the most traditional collective model is the Cooperative. Cooperative Housing can be the result of a Collective if housing and ownership is a significant part of its mission.




Worker Cooperatives are a form of collectivism where every member has stake in the fruits of collective labor. This can greatly reduce the members costs and living expenses often by eliminating the need for upper management positions, within the collective business or industry and provides equality for all of its member/ workers.

The formation of working Cooperatives are pretty common in the commercial and industrial realm. Many small business ‘s and even big ones have forms of Cooperatives to either increase their market share or reduce operating costs for its members by sharing resources. We still see Co-Operatives in roughly that form like REI, and Natural food Co-operatives that provide a membership that has cost saving benefits.

One famous Workers  Cooperative was the United Workers Coopertaive in the Bronx’s lower east side. Established mostly by Jewish and Communist sympathizing communities during the 1920’s. The self-organized group, planned and developed a tenement community, or a Cooperative Housing, of socially and politically engaged residents with an equal voice in the management or their complex (regardless of their housing unit size).

Similar to a Co-Housing model this Cooperative Housing unit had classrooms, a library and other common shared amenities.  Though the Coop was originally formed for workers specific them to the textile and garment industry, Cooperative housing was their ultimate goal.

In  a “Capital Co-op” the members own a share of equity in the  Cooperative Real Estate. In a Non-share capital coop, which are often not -for profit, organizations may only offer membership or occupancy rights often underwritten by their subscriptions or rent.

In the U.S. and Canada, Housing Cooperatives have been identified as falling into 3 different categories regarding member equity.

“In market-rate housing cooperatives, members may sell their shares in the cooperative whenever they like for whatever price the market will bear, much like any other residential property. Market-rate co-ops are very common in New York City.

Limited equity housing cooperatives, which are often used by affordable housing developers, allow members to own some equity in their home, but limit the sale price of their membership share to that which they paid.

Group equity or zero-equity housing cooperatives do not allow members to own equity in their residences and often have rental agreements well below market rates.”

BY LISA SMITH- Updated Mar 31, 2019


A cooperative is a group that collectively owns a building (or group of buildings), each person owning a percentage share of the building, with that share entitling them to live in a certain unit in the building. -Mike Eliason

Hence the Cooperative or LLC obtains the mortgage called a blanket mortgage. The members buy or are issued stock, certificates or shares. Share loans, similar to mortgages but lacking real property title (the shares guarantee the loan), can be made available for potential shareholders. The shareholder is given an occupancy certificate and a lease or occupancy agreement. This gives legal use of the property so long as the member fulfills the obligations set forth by the Cooperative entity.  Membership is often supported by a monthly or annual fee and buying and selling of the units is often controlled by the Cooperative entity as well.

“Members are both tenants, as determined by the occupancy agreement, and owners because of the shares held in the cooperative. The cooperative’s property taxes are assessed against the cooperative as a whole. There is no reassessment when the shares are sold.”

Cooperative Housing Bulletin-A member service of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives Cooperative Housing Bulletin Spring 2013-

Are you interested in learning more about available properties around Seattle? Do you have property and are looking for Community?

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