Re: Membership control in resales = co-op ownership
From: David L. Mandel (
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 1995 01:14:55 -0600
Some thoughts in response to Charlie's question and Rob's reply, especially the
horror story about the foreclosed-upon house at Sharingwood:

One obvious answer was in the very beginning of Charlie's query: the decision
the Berkeley cohousing group is still struggling with -- cooperative or
condominium ownership. On the most elementary level, with the former, a group
can have a high degree of control over who buys in, while with the latter, there
is almost none. 

Especially in a place like Berkeley, a highly desirable locale with a high
demand for housing, the danger Charlie cites of future folks buying in because
it's a convenient, attractive place to live at a fairly reasonable price is
serious indeed. I dread the same phenomenon in our downtown Sacramento location;
especially down the road when our neighborhood will probably be considered more
desirable in other ways, it will be even more so for its convenience to the
Capitol and surrounding offices and other amenities. Someone could easily buy a
unit and never participate in community life.

When we made the condo vs. co-op decision, the real estate market was still in
the go-go late '80s and many of our members were pulled into wanting condo by
the expectation that it would be a much better investment of their life savings.
I don't blame those who wanted to protect their investment, though here's
another example of why I scream inside at the fact that a basic necessity such
as housing is treated as just another commodity in our capitalist system. ... 

Anyway, if the debate were taking place in today's stagnant market, those of us
who urged co-op back then might have prevailed.

The other obstacle to co-op (part of the same phenomenon, actually) is that our
housing finance system is not designed to support it. I guess there's not as
much money to be made, so there aren't as many banks out there willing to do
co-op financing, and while there may be some government money to finance limited
equity co-ops (full or partial) for low-income folks, it gets pretty
complicated. I am far from an expert on how to do it. But there are some
knowledgeable people out there, and I urge you, Charlie, as well as others in
similar positions to give some real serious attention to the possibility of
co-op financing. Winslow cohousing near Seattle did it, by the way, so you may
want to contact them for concrete advice.

Is anyone else considering co-op ownership these days?

David Mandel
Southside Park Cohousing

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