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What is a housing co-operative?

A housing co-operative is a community of people who voluntarily work together to meet their common need for affordable, sustainable housing. Members live in separate dwellings but actively participate in the management of the housing co-operative as a whole, and enjoy the many benefits this type of housing offers.

Membership to a housing co-operative requires significant commitment, including attending meetings and participating in the management and everyday running of the co-operative.

Each housing co-operative is slightly different, but they all share the following features. Their primary aim is to provide affordable and socially, economically and environmentally sustainable housing to their members.
They are managed by their members, and all members have equal rights and responsibilities in their management and operation.
They operate according to the principles of co-operation.

A housing co-operative is a legally incorporated entity. There are three main models of ownership.

Under the common equity (or non-equity) model, the property is owned by the housing co-operative as a whole, or by some other central body. Individual members do not own their dwelling, but rent it from the co-operative or other central body.

Under the shared equity (or limited equity) model, ownership of the property is shared between the housing co-operative or other central body, and the individual members. Individual members may own all or part of their dwelling.

Under the full equity model, individual members each own their own dwellings, but share a desire to live as part of an identifiable community according to the principles of co-operation.

(All of Co-operation Housing’s current full member housing co-operatives are based on the common equity model. All properties are owned by the Housing Authority, and individual members pay rent to live there. Members have no personal ownership of the homes they rent; they put no money in when they join, and they take no money out when they leave. All member households must meet income eligibility requirements, and the rent each household pays is based on its total household income. Under Housing Authority current policy, each household’s rent is no more than 25 per cent of that household’s income.)

What are the benefits of housing co-operatives?

Housing co-operatives offer a number of benefits, both to their members and to the communities in which they are located.

For members, the benefits include:

  • access to affordable and socially, economically and environmentally sustainable housing that they can manage and control themselves
  • a sense of ownership and long-term security of their housing situation
  • a sense of belonging to a community based on mutual co-operation
    the safety and security of living somewhere where there are always other familiar people around
  • opportunities to gain training and experience in roles such as chairperson, secretary, treasurer or maintenance officer
  • ongoing opportunities to develop and share skills, practical help, support and encouragement
  • access to education and skills development
  • access to other support.

For the community in which it is located, benefits include:

  • a positive contribution to the social balance and cultural diversity of the community
  • the addition of a number of socially, economically and environmentally responsible members to the local community
  • enrichment of the social and co-operative atmosphere of the community
    overall strengthening of the local sense of community.

In addition, because housing co-operatives are managed by their members, they tend to be better maintained than other types of rented dwellings whose tenants feel less sense of ownership. Research has found that they also tend to have better security, lower crime rates and a higher overall quality of housing than either privately or publicly managed rented dwellings.

 

What are the challenges of housing co-operatives?

Living in a housing co-operative suits some people very well, but will not suit everyone.

There are two main features of this type of housing that some people might find challenging.

Firstly, each member of a housing co-operative is required to actively participate in its management and operation. This involves a significant commitment of time and energy.

Requirements include:

attending and actively participating in regular meetings, where members collectively make decisions regarding the management and operation of the housing co-operative taking on an official role such as chairperson, secretary, treasurer or maintenance officer, for a particular period of time, and carrying out the duties that role involves being willing to learn how to undertake one of these roles as required attending training to develop and maintain skills in areas relevant to the management and operation of the housing co-operative actively participating in scheduled working bees.

Secondly, living in a housing co-operative offers somewhat less privacy and personal autonomy than living in other types of housing. This is because it can involve living quite closely together with other members, actively participating in the management and running of the co-operative as a whole, and reaching and respecting collective decisions relating to issues of management and operation.

Requirements include:

  • being able and willing to get along well with many different types of people all living quite closely together
  • being willing to truly listen to and respect the opinions, needs and wishes of all members
  • being willing to participate actively  and respectfully in collective decision-making processes
  • being willing to live according to the rules decided collectively by all members
  • being willing to live according to the principles of co-operation.

 

Video CENSW

Video CENSW

Co-op values & principles

Co-op values & principles

 

FAQ


Living In A Housing Co-Op

What kinds of people live in housing co-operatives?

All kinds of people live in housing co-operatives. Household types include single adults, couples and families, and residents range in age from babies to elderly people.
Some housing co-operatives include a wide range of household types, ages and other characteristics, while others have general characteristics that are shared by all or most residents. This is because most housing co-operatives were originally established by a group of like-minded (and in some cases similarly aged) people. However, these characteristics can also change over time.
The best way to get an idea of the kind of people who live in a particular housing co-operative is to read the description under Our members. If you have any specific questions, contact the housing co-operative directly.

Do residents own or rent their homes?

All of Co-operation Housing’s current member housing co-operatives are based on the common equity (or non-equity) model of ownership. All properties (including all the homes) are owned by the Housing Authority. Individual residents pay rent to live there, and have no personal ownership of the home that they rent. They put no money in when they join, and they take no money out when they leave.

How much and what kind of participation is required?

Every member of a housing co-operative is required to actively participate in its overall management and operation. This involves a significant commitment of time and energy. Requirements include:
attending and actively participating in regular meetings, where members collectively make decisions regarding the management and operation of the housing co-operative
taking on an official role such as chairperson, secretary, treasurer or maintenance officer, for a particular period of time, and carrying out the duties that role involves
being willing to learn how to undertake one of these roles as required
attending training to develop and maintain skills in areas relevant to the management and operation of the housing co-operative
actively participating in scheduled working bees.
The exact nature and amount of participation required will vary slightly between housing co-operatives. Contact the one you are interested in directly if you would like more detail or have specific queries.

Do residents each live independently, or do they share meals and other activities?

This depends on the individual housing co-operative. Some hold regular social events, while others don’t. In general, though, all residents respect each other’s right to choose the balance between privacy and community that best suits them.
If you would like more detail or have specific queries, contact the housing co-operative you are interested in directly.

How much privacy will I have?

Living in a housing co-operative offers somewhat less privacy than living in other types of housing. It can involve living quite closely together with other residents, and requires actively participating in the management and running of the co-operative as a whole, and reaching and respecting collective decisions relating to issues of management and operation. For this reason, it requires an ability and a willingness to get along well with many different types of people and to truly listen to and respect the opinions, needs and wishes of all members.
Members respect each other’s rights to choose the balance between privacy and community that best suits them. However, if you are a person who particularly values your own privacy, independence and personal autonomy, you might find that a housing co-operative is not the type of housing that will best suit you.

Are pets allowed?

Are pets allowed?
The rules of each housing co-operative are decided collectively by its members. Some have decided to allow pets, while others have decided not to. Contact the housing co-operative you are interested in for information about their pet policy.

The buildings and grounds

What are the houses like?

This depends on the individual housing co-operative, but all offer quality, well-maintained housing.
Some homes are original houses, units or other buildings that have been renovated, while others have been purpose-built. They may be made from brick, weatherboard, rammed earth or other materials. They vary in size from one bedroom upwards.
You can get an idea of the type of homes offered by each housing co-operative by looking at the photographs under Our members. If you have more specific questions, contact the housing co-operative directly.

Is each home self-contained, or are some facilities shared?

Each home is self-contained, but some housing co-operatives also offer shared facilities such as a laundry, office space, hall or other space.
You can get an idea of the facilities offered by each housing co-operative by reading the descriptions under Our members. If you have more specific questions, contact the housing co-operative directly.

Are the gardens shared or private?

This depends on the individual housing co-operative. Some include private gardens, some include shared gardens and some offer a combination of both.
You can get an idea of the gardens and grounds at each housing co-operative by reading the descriptions under Our members. If you have more specific questions, contact the housing co-operative directly.

What common areas and facilities are there?

This depends on the individual housing co-operative. Some include a common meeting room, office, hall or other shared space, while others do not.
You can get an idea of the common areas and facilities offered by each housing co-operative by reading the descriptions under Our members. If you have more specific questions, contact the housing co-operative directly.

Are the buildings accessible to people with a disability?

This depends on the individual housing co-operative. The best way to ensure that a particular housing co-operative meets your specific accessibility needs is to contact it directly.

Can I visit a housing co-operative to have a look around the houses and grounds?

Housing co-operatives are people’s homes, so they should be treated the same way as anyone else’s home. If you are interested in joining a particular housing co-operative and would like to have a look around, contact them first to request a suitable time to visit.

The application process

What are the eligibility requirements?

To be eligible to apply for housing at one of our member housing co-operatives, you must:
live in Western Australia
be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
be at least 18 years of age (there may be exceptions)
be within income and asset eligibility limits
not own property
understand and be committed to the principles of co-operative living
meet any other criteria specific to the housing co-operative to which you wish to apply.

How much rent will I pay?

The rent each household pays is based on their household income. Under current Western Australian Housing Authority policy, rent is no more than 25 per cent of household income.

How do I apply?

Each housing co-operative has its own application process, which generally involves you getting to know how that particular housing co-operative works and what would be required of you if you became a member, before submitting your official application.
Contact the housing co-operative that interests you directly for information on their application process.

How long is the waiting list?

Each housing co-operative has its own waiting list, and lengths vary. However, most are quite long, and the turnover of residents is generally low, so new applicants might need to wait a few years for a home to become available. We advise that you begin the application process as early as possible, but also arrange other housing for the meantime, as it is not possible to predict when a home will become available.

Is there any emergency housing available?

Unfortunately, we do not offer emergency housing. If you require emergency housing, please contact the Housing Authority on 1800 065 892.

How are new residents chosen?

When a home becomes available, the existing members consider each person on the waiting list in terms of:
their position on the waiting list
whether they still meet the eligibility criteria
whether their household size matches the available home
any other criteria specific to that housing co-operative.

Once a home becomes available, how long will I be able to live there?

Housing co-operatives offer sustainable, long-term housing. You may continue to live in a housing co-operative as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements.