What do we know about Cooperative Housing

Comparative analysis of the legal frameworks in five Countries


  • Efrat Aviram Vas Technion
  • Rachelle Alterman Technion, Haifa


cooperative housing, legal frameworks, comparative research, cross national




Most of us know something about cooperative housing.  But in fact, we know little, because cooperative housing in reality may imply a variety of forms of housing tenure, management, demographics, what exactly is sharing and shared, who and when is eligible, etc.

A frequent assumption that may turn out wrong is that coop housing is a form of affordable housing.  However, the crux of coop housing is the legal format with a special type of tenure and institutional modes that rely on inter-personal cooperation as defined by legislation.

In fact, coop housing may not be affordable. And, realistically, the institutional format that created the coop housing may or may not create intensive social cooperation and a sense of community.

It is undeniable that housing tenure matters. Among the various formats of housing tenure, cooperative housing has not received as much research attention as it merits.  Cooperative housing was a dominant tenure form within Soviet and communist regimes. Since 1990, in these countries, coop housing has been partially replaced by extensive privatization.

Today, the distinctions from related terms, such as collaborative housing or cohousing, are not always clear.  Legally, coop housing clearly differs from condominiums.  The latter mode of tenure, where each household owns its apartment, also dictates some degree of cooperation among owners, but the legal-institutional format of coop housing is, at least in theory, more intense in cooperation. 

The past 20 years did produce a body of research, with contributions on social, psychological, economic, and architectural aspects. However, as surprising as it may seem, there is little scholarly attention to the legal frameworks for cooperative housing, how (or whether) they work, and what are their implications for the various realms of life (social, economic, place-making, urban life etc.).  The dearth of legal research is especially visible on the cross-national level.  In fact, we did not find a single systematic comparative investigation of the similarities and differences among legal frameworks. There is no comparative analysis of the implementations and impacts of such differences.

This paper is stage two of our research. The first stage, presented in last year’s conference, presented the analytical framework developed that enables cross national comparison of the very detailed similarities and differences among the laws and regulations.  After all, when it comes to law, “the devil is in the details” indeed.  In this paper, we apply the legal scaffolding to the coop housing laws and regulations in five countries:  Sweden, England, USA, France, and Israel.  The interim findings show significant differences in important details such as the boundaries of the co-owners right to sell their housing unit:  Do they need the approval of the other co-owners or not?  What does “approval” mean in legal procedure? Are there restrictions on the timing of sale (for example, after residing a minimum quota of years).  Are there any rules about the monetary value of the property upon transfer? Another example is the legal status of the “board” or a similar management body, its composition, powers, standing of the members and more. There are many other types of differences, along with similarities.

The many differences discovered may have major impacts on the daily lives and economic assets of members of cooperatives in these countries. Such questions will be the focus on the next stage in our research.


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Bossuyt D., (2022) Who Owns Collaborative Housing? A Conceptual Typology of Property, Regimes, Housing, Theory and Society, 39:2, 200-216