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Navigating the world of Housing Cooperatives

Established models along with emerging ones could offer some very needed solutions

21 March 2024 | Published in Future of the EU & Housing

The landscape of housing cooperatives can be quite complex. This is why in the preparation of a a briefing dedicated to this topic by Housing Europe, we have brought together a panel of speakers, who had either experience from the field or worked closely with the sector.


This initiative started from the fact that it is imperative to support the emergence of a new wave of cooperative and community-led housing models. MEP Patrizia Toia set the tone, stressing the urgency of addressing the housing crisis and acknowledging cooperatives as a vital solution. Our Research Director Alice Pittini presented the highlights of the dedicated briefing on the different housing cooperatives models around Europe, that will be available in June. The reasoning behind it was the increasing requests for an update of the sector's activity, that could contribute to advancing the conversation on this topic, ahead of the International Year of Cooperatives in 2025. ‘We see a major increase in interest over housing cooperatives in the past couple of years’, said she. The added value? Affordability, stability, resilience, democracy and solidarity.

From Sweden we saw a very inspiring example of cooperative housing destined for the elderly. Mårten Lilja of Riksbyggen highlighted the collaborative approach of cooperatives in managing the administrative process and the buildings, emphasizing the democratic influence of residents through participation in the board. Maite Arrondo from the regional government of Navarra, in Spain, presented the NETCO project, a network of collaborative housing programmes, a ‘trendy’ topic of which people have high expectations.

‘Young adults and the housing dream’ was the title of Rossana Zaccaria’s from Legacoop Abitanti presentation. The exclusion causes are not just economic ones, but also due to the rigidity of the housing market. More than 2/3 of young adults live with their parents; with 35,9% of them being workers; 40% earning low wages and are affected by discontinuity. She mentioned the fact that Commissioner Nicolas Schmit emphasized the importance of housing policies in the coming years, underscoring the significance of public-private partnerships and the role of cooperatives as non-speculative actors in policy design. Talking about the Italian context, Rossana highlighted that there 600 housing cooperatives with 250,000 members, managing 40,000 undivided ownership units and 10,000 units for social housing providers.‘The social management model of housing for young people is crucial’, she concluded.

Michel Gontard, President of Grand Delta Habitat, discussed the challenges of explaining the Community Land Trust concept in the south of France. In order to get residents on board, inventive strategies were needed, such as drawing comparisons with camping cars and the rented camping slots. Another representative case for Southern Europe was presented by João Carvalhosa from Gebalis. He shared insights on how to give new life to the cooperative sector in Lisbon through public land concessions over 90 years for accessible building projects.

Christian König from the European Federation of Building Societies highlighted the role of building societies in providing stability and access to credit for potential homebuyers. When asked whether we should choose between ownership or the cooperatives model, Housing Europe Secretary General Sorcha Edwards emphasized the need for collaborative solutions to address housing challenges while allowing for individual choice, adjusted to the local context.

In case you missed the session, you can access the recording of the event here