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5 min read Jun 07, 2023

What is a CO-OP: A Guide to Understanding Cooperative Housing

Buying a house and renting an apartment are both costly options for owning a primary residence. So, what is a more affordable alternative?

The answer is Cooperative housing. It is a type of community living arrangement that has been growing in popularity over the years. However, many people are still unfamiliar with it.

If you’re one of them, don’t worry! This guide will help you understand what is a co-op, how it works, and its advantages and disadvantages, and answer any questions you may have about cooperative housing. So, let’s dive in!

🚀 Key Takeaways

  • A co-op is a housing arrangement where you own a primary residence. But you don’t own your unit completely. Instead, you will become a shareholder in the co-op itself.
  • These are less expensive as compared to apartments. This is mainly because they work on an at-cost basis.
  • It is advisable to read the article of incorporation, agreement rules, and any other document before buying shares of a company.

What Is a Co-Op?

Cooperative housing is a type of homeownership. The residents collectively form a corporation that owns the apartment building.

When you join a co-op, you’re buying shares in a nonprofit corporation that grants you the right to live in the building.

When you buy shares in cooperative housing, you won’t receive a deed or title to the actual property. Instead, you’ll receive a stock certificate that proves your ownership of shares. The cooperative treats these shares as personal property.

What Are the Types Of Co-Op?

The three main types of co-ops are:

  • Market Rate: Cooperatives that are based on the market rate. You can buy and sell shares at rates that are determined by the market.
  • Leasing: Leasing involves renting or leasing a property for a specific period.
  • Limited-Equity Housing Cooperative: It imposes a price limit on shares in the co-op that can be bought or sold.

Other Types of Co-ops Are:

  • Housing Co-ops: Here, residents jointly own and manage an apartment building or housing complex.
  • Consumer Co-ops: The consumers own and manage this cooperative society. The organization aims to meet its members’ needs and aspirations.
  • Worker Co-ops: Here the employees are also the owners. They participate in the decision-making process and share the profits and benefits of the cooperative.
  • Agricultural Co-ops: Farmers or agricultural producers form these cooperatives to collaborate and market their products.
  • Credit Unions: Credit unions are financial cooperatives. Members pool their money to provide affordable loans, banking services, and other financial products to their members.
  • Utility Co-ops: It provides basic utility services to its members.

Difference Between Co-op and Condo

The main difference between a co-op and a condo lies in the form of ownership and the legal structure.

In a condominium (condo), you own a specific unit within a building. Whereas in a cooperative (co-op), the corporation owns the building.

Condo owners receive a deed to their unit. They have more autonomy in terms of managing their property. When you purchase a co-op, you are not buying a specific property but rather shares in the cooperative corporation.

The condo gives you the freedom to rent out or sell your unit. In a co-op, you have limited control over the unit. Also, you must adhere to the rules and regulations set by the cooperative corporation.

Condo owners can typically secure mortgages from traditional lenders. Whereas, co-op owners often need to obtain co-op-specific financing. This involves the cooperative corporation’s approval process.

How Does Co-Op Housing Work?

Co-op housing works when a group of interested individuals come together and forms a housing cooperative. The group incorporates the cooperative as a legal entity. This is often known as a non-profit organization.

Once the corporation is formed, you will buy shares in the co-ops if you want to become a member. The number of shares determines your ownership stake. Accordingly, you will sign an occupancy agreement. This will outline the terms and conditions of living in the co-op.

Later, the cooperative will establish a governance structure. It consists of a board of directors and shareholders. The board oversees the operations and makes important decisions.

As a member, you will also participate in general meetings. You will take decisions related to management, policies, and financial matters. Each member usually has one vote, regardless of the number of shares you own.

Finally, the committee sets rules and regulations to govern its residents’ behavior.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Co-Op Living

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of a co-op:


  • Affordability: Its costs are shared among the members. This makes it more affordable compared to condos or single-family homes.
  • Shared Responsibility: Co-op living distributes responsibilities among the members. This can be beneficial for elderly members of society.
  • Decision-Making Power: You get an opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. This ownership and involvement lead to a stronger sense of community.
  • Long-Term Stability: You have the right to occupy the property as long as you comply with the rules and regulations.


  • Limited Flexibility: You are buying a share of the building rather than the unit itself. This gives you less control over the space you live in. Which can limit your ability to make changes or renovations.
  • Limited Resale Value: It has less demand in the market. This can make it more difficult to recoup your investment if you decide to move.
  • Lack Of Secrecy: All the cooperative affairs are openly discussed in the member’s meeting. In such a situation, privacy and secrecy are unlikely to exist.
  • Decision-Making Challenges: Often the decisions lead to conflict among members. This leads to compromises and negotiations.

Final Word

Co-op housing offers you an alternative model where you collectively own and manage a multi-unit property. As a member, you will purchase shares in the cooperative. This entitles you to occupy a specific unit and contribute to the governance of the cooperative.

It promotes affordability, social cohesion, and a cooperative living environment. Specific rules and arrangements vary. But shared ownership, and democratic governance, are fundamental.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a condop?

A “condop” is a type of building where some units are owned as condos and others operate as co-ops.

2. What are the options for Co-op financing?

The options for co-op financing typically include obtaining a co-op loan or using personal funds to purchase shares in the cooperative.

3. Can I rent out my co-op unit?

It depends on the rules of your specific co-op. Some co-ops allow subletting, while others do not.

4. How are decisions made in a co-op?

Decisions in a co-op are typically made through a democratic process, with each shareholder having an equal vote.

5. Who can become a member of a cooperative housing society?

Adults who share common interests can form their associations, join them, and register them with the Registrar of Cooperative Societies.


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