A zero-equity housing cooperative is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to provide affordable housing and foster community among residents through shared meals, chores, and events. Housing cooperatives are always democratically owned and managed by their members.
Usually, the housing cooperative owns property or is working toward property ownership.
You may have heard of housing cooperatives in New York or other cities in which residents own a condo or apartment and engage with other members in the collective management of the apartment complex or community. Individuals hold title to condos or other units and can sell their units at a profit. While this has some similarities to our model, namely member ownership and management, it is very different – in the model we practice, the nonprofit organization that members run holds title to property, not individuals, and the organization cannot sell property at a profit. Hence, it is a zero-equity model.
In general, cooperatives around the world operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these princples to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale England in 1844.
Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations; open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members --those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperatives-- who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
Members' Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative's autonomy.
Education, Training, and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.
What is CHUM?
CHUM is a zero-equity housing cooperative serving the community near the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. We have an open membership policy, meaning all members of the community willing to contribute to the cooperative in certain specified ways are welcome. Additionally, CHUM believes cooperating with non-members and improving the vitality of the College Park community is very important. We host weekly community potlucks open to all of College Park. Finally, many CHUM members are vegetarian or vegan, promoters of social justice, and environmentally conscious.
Why should College Park have a zero-equity housing co-op?
In a metro area with high demand, affordable housing options are scarce – worse, student demand for housing drives rental prices up further. One major role of a co-op in this environment is to try and counteract this pressure on pricing by permanently preserving properties as affordable dwellings.
In addition, our co-op's unique proximity to the University brings forward the possibility of exposing future leaders or University affiliates with an alternative model for solving the problems of economic disparity and community degradation. Co-ops are especially unique in the requirement that membership be actively involved and crucial in determining the direction of the co-op. The principal of member ownership is important both personally and societally. This not only gives members greater autonomy over their own lives but also leads them to engage and involve themselves outside of the co-op because they now have invaluable experience in consensus decision-making, running a business, and generally being active participants in an institution.
Finally, co-ops are unique in the close bonds they foster amongst members and in the way they connect with their neighbors as a permanent fixture of the community. A higher-density, community-centered model of living that brings together strangers to live together and help each other is an excellent alternative to traditional family structures that are not available or desirable to everyone.
Co-op Housing University of Maryland (CHUM) began when a group of people from the university community came together to talk about lack of affordable housing in College Park. Demand for student housing drives up rents in neighborhoods surrounding the university, and a large transient population fractures the sense of community in the neighborhood.
While the university was busy building more dorms, and developers were constructing luxury high-rise apartments along Route 1, CHUM was imagining what an alternative would look like. Rather than renting from the university, corporations that own large apartment complexes, or single family property owners who often charge high rents for a small supply of poorly maintained properties, residents could own and manage their own properties in a way that allowed for affordable higher-density living and the maintenance of a community despite transient populations. University affiliates and other residents could coexist peacefully, share in greater responsibilities and freedoms like setting their own rent and establishing a sustainable culture, and interact with their neighbors in a positive way.
Food culture is an important part of co-ops. CHUM houses share groceries and dinners; we have vegan-friendly CHUM-wide meals twice a week, and residents in individual houses eat dinner together up to five times a week.
As the group grew, CHUM incorporated in the state of Maryland and residents signed leases on three properties for the 2010-2011 year. While they were still at the mercy of their for-profit landlords, CHUM residents used their inaugural year toperfect the principles of cooperative living (like a shared organizational structure, collaborative events, and shared meals), build up the cause of a cooperative housing community in College Park, and start planning for the future.
For the 2012-2013 year, CHUM has expanded its membership to SIX houses and wants to increase its presence in the community by planning more community events.
CHUM welcomes those interested in the concept of cooperative ownership and living to have dinner with us, room with us, and find ways to make a true co-op in College Park a reality.
CHUM’s current endeavors as of 2/20/2012:
Applying for 501c3 tax exemption --> ACHIEVED!
Raising down-payment money for our first CHUM-owned house
Working to get this unique form of cooperative housing recognized as a valid form of group living by the city and county
Move to bigger (and better!) houses --> Semi-Achieved!
Because CHUM is a young organization, we rent houses from local landlords while we build capital and political support to own property in CHUM’s name. All of the houses are within walking distance to each other, downtown College Park and the University of Maryland campus, and the College Park metro station.
For the 2013-2014 school-year, we are moving from of two of our smaller houses, to larger, more CHUM-friendly residences.
This is a happy thing :-D
CHUM is a consensus-based, egalitarian organization where any member of the College Park community may pay dues or, alternatively, attend a certain number of consecutive meetings, and receive one vote in the decisions the organization makes. CHUM has a board elected from within its dues-paying membership, but input from the entire community is welcome at board meetings and in board decisions. CHUM also has a number of volunteer committees open to all members of the community, dues-paying or otherwise, who are interested in cooperative living. If you have a question, you can email email@example.com & a member will get back to you!
BOF (Bringers of Fun) Point Person: Dee Frostbutter
Business Plan Point Person: Matthew Smith and Marie Pino
The business plan committee is dedicated to developing CHUM’s business plan moving forward as well as creating the materials necessary to apply for grants in competitions for funding. As CHUM works to purchase its first property, the Business Plan Committee is responsible for pursuing the funding necessary to make that dream become a reality.
Finance Point Person: Aaron Revere
The finance committee consists of CHUM's treasurer and a finance manager from every house. Finance managers collect annual and monthly payments from CHUM members for rent, utilities, groceries, and membership fees. The finance committee is also responsible for creating an annual budget, keeping track of CHUM's finances throughout the year, and distributing funds to other committees as needed.
Garden Point Person: Jon Vocke
Grocery Point Person: Joe Hammer
Grocery Committee is in charge of organizing bulk buying for the greater benefit of the co-op. We aim to lower costs per person to make food as accessible as possible. We aim to source food from sustainable places, other cooperatives, and local organizations that benefit the community.
We want good, affordable, fresh, local, sustainable bulk food for our residents, boarders, and potluck attendees and other friends of CHUM. We want to coordinate a system that is easy to understand financially and easily distributes food to CHUM houses. We want our system to easily accommodate a wide range of dietary preferences and never require someone to pay for food that they do not support the purchase or consumption of.
Handbook and History Point Person: Remy Riot
The Handbooks & Histories Committee is dedicated to preserving and creating CHUM traditions and histories. Through the creation and use of handbooks, yearbooks, and house archives, we strive to empower CHUM members to take an active role in preserving their own histories, memories, and experiences within CHUM. We seek to create a base for processes and procedures to provide examples of cooperative living for new CHUM members and other co-ops to build on and improve. Finally, we hope to bring together the collective memory and histories of what CHUM was, is, and can be.
Housing Point Person: Richard Higgins
Housing Committee exists to seek out new properties for CHUM to rent or acquire. Housing Committee's current responsibilities are in the short term to continue to maintain a suitable set of rental houses for upcoming years and in the long term seek out an ideal property for purchase.
Meeting: Wednesday, November 28th at 4pm at the Mad Ox
Mediation Point Person: Susan Nembhard and Joe Hammer
Mediation Committee is CHUM's internal conflict resolution resource, dedicated to ensuring that CHUM is a safe-space for all members of our community. The mediators working in this committee will remain objective and unbiased, and will hear testimony from all involved parties. Mediation Committee can mediate conflicts related to lifestyle clashes, house meeting, common space or possession usage, or wherever mediation is requested.
If you feel that you need the help of mediation committee then please feel free to contact us. There is a general email, firstname.lastname@example.org, that is maintained by the committee. If you don’t feel comfortable contacting the committee as a whole you can contact any of the mediation committee members.
Mediation Committee has meetings each Saturday at 2pm.
New Membership Point Person: Jon Cohen
Outreach and Organization Point Person: Isabel Enerson Overview:The Outreach and Organization Committee is responsible for the organization and distribution of CHUM materials intended to inform the community and educate members. If no material exists for a given purpose the committee is responsible for developing the material if knowledgeable, and contacting appropriate committees to request information if they are not. The Outreach and Organization Committee will work closely with the website committee to develop content, disseminate information and make documents accessible to all CHUM members and appropriate parties. (For example our flyers would be publicly accessible, but our contact lists would be given member-only access.) Ideally, New Membership would also have a symbiotic relationship with this committee.
Goals:I would like to have this system operational before the end of term. Ideally, this committee could aid in the dissemination of information for new and prospective members in the upcoming semester and the next school year. Also, if CHUM decides to offer an alternative 'winter semester' of skill shares this committee could be key in that coordination.
Sustainability Point Person: Rebecca Hayes
Website Point Person: Maggie Dorr, but only if you really like the website
We (poorly) manage this site. If you have any complaints, suggestions, or if you wish to send us the highest of fives, you may email email@example.com.