Germanic Cooperative Housing Resources

I’ve started to lose track of all the things I’ve been reading about housing cooperatives (mostly) in the German speaking world, so I thought I would make a little catalog of resources. Note that many of the articles and organizational websites are in German, but Google Translate is good enough!


  • Funding the Cooperative City: A book-length anthology of projects, policies, and organizations from all across Europe, working to create a shared civic realm that exists somewhere between the public (state) and private spheres. Focuses primarily on initiatives that grew out of the financial / real-estate crises of 2006-2009, the ensuing austerity measures, and long-term erosion of many protections of the social-democratic welfare states. It’s a free ebook that can be downloaded as a PDF. I can’t tell whether the book is an extension of the website, or vice-versa, but there’s a lot of good content to browse online too.
  • Urban Commons: Moving Beyond State and Market: A compilation of conference papers related to non-state, non-speculative models of urban development. Definitely academic in flavor, but an interesting exploration of this “third space.”
  • Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing: Written primarily with a UK perspective, this book gives a great historical overview of housing and land economics, speculation, financialization, commodification, post-WWII affordable housing develppment and its later privatization by the Thatcher government. Also gets into the original context of land as one of the fundamental factors of production in the economy — independent of labor or capital — and makes a good case that we should still be thinking about it that way, in a Henry George kind of way, in the context of urban development and housing policy.

Articles & Project Profiles

  • How Leipzig is Reinventing Housing. A snapshot of Leipzig’s autonomous housing scene, as the city transitions from a period of post-industrial collapse and depopulation to becoming a fashionable metro (aka “Hypezig”). Until recently abandoned buildings could be turned into housing cooperatives little more than a big dose of sweat equity, but no more. The city is supporting alternative ownership structures and non-speculative housing models, but is it enough to avoid the economic exclusion being experienced by Berlin?
  • Housing and the Cooperative Commonwealth. One architect’s journey learning about the broad scope and long history of limited equity cooperatives worldwide, and some thoughts on how we might re-invigorate the cooperative commonwealth in the US.
  • Housing Beyond Profit: A Comparison of U.S. and German Alternative Ownership Models. Explores similarities and differences between several non-speculative ownership systems: Limited Equity Co-ops, Community Land Trusts, and a Householders Union.
  • Co-op City: Z├╝rich’s Experiment with Non-Profit Housing. With 100,000 housing co-op members and a century of operations… I’m not sure you can really call Z├╝rich’s cooperative housing an “experiment” any more. Includes some great quotes from Andreas Hofer, like “The housing market is inherently conservative and influenced by strong political lobbies. So a financial crisis, a social crisis ÔÇö these can trigger a crucial moment of reflection. It is possible to change the system through reason, but humans often need a deep crisis to get reasonable.”
  • How Housing Cooperatives Built a City: A bit of history on how cooperative development was revived in Z├╝rich, starting with the city’s housing crisis in the 1990s, and some details on the Kalkbreite Co-op.
  • The Kalkbreite Co-op Complex & Z├╝rich’s Cooperative Renaissance. A profile of the large new multi-use Kalkbreite cooperative in central Z├╝rich, and some history of the new cooperative movement in Z├╝rich. The funky courtyard building sits atop a tram station. The land is owned by the City. It offers a variety of different housing types, from studio apartments and single rooms to large family apartments with 3-5 bedrooms, cluster apartments (very small studios arranged around a shared common kitchen and other social spaces) and big shared flats with up to 17 bedrooms.
  • More than Housing (Mehr als Wohnen), Z├╝rich, from the World Habitat Awards. This is a large new development, ~400 apartments and ~1200 residents, including ground floor non-residential uses. Roughly the scale of a city block and 5-6 stories tall. It was a collaborative development enabled by 35 other cooperatives in Z├╝rich working together, along with a land grant from the city — it was built on the site of a former cement plant, near the northern edge of the city.
  • Edith Maryon Foundation via Cooperative City. The foundation works in Switzerland and Germany to capture land from the speculative market, usually properties that are already serving some social use — affordable housing, community multi-purpose space, art studios, etc. Sometimes it acts like a land trust, providing a ground lease to socially minded building owners if the existing users have the capital required to buy the land. Other times it retains ownership of both the land and the building and acts more like a non-profit landlord. Privately funded through gifts and bequests.

Cooperatives & Allied Organizations

  • Edith Maryon Foundation (English). A private land-capture foundation supporting affordable housing and other non-speculative uses mostly in Switzerland, but also in Germany.
  • Mietshauser Syndicate is a householders union with members all over Germany, as well as a few international projects. They help apartment dwellers organize and buy their properties out from owners, under the condition that the property can never again enter the speculative market, and that the community pays into a solidarity fund which will help the Syndicate continue this work. It’s not a cooperative, but many of the member communities are. The Syndicate the the member communities own each property in equal shares using LLCs, with the economic rights and day-to-day management of the community being self-determined, but the Syndicate retaining veto power over any liquidation.
  • SoWo Leipzig (English via Google). Solidarity Housing Leipzig is an umbrella organization remarkably similar to the Boulder Housing Coalition in many ways — it holds properties but doesn’t manage the day to day affairs of the communities within them, and each of the member communities elects a representative to the board of the umbrella group.
  • Haus- und WagenRat, Leipzig (English via Google). An association of not only housing cooperatives, but also other non-profit community initiatives in Leipzig, including vehicle sharing and community workshop spaces. Also does consultation on the creation of new projects and governance systems, and runs a speaker series.
  • Central LS W33, Leipzig (English via Google). While not technically a co-op, this company was created to help facilitate cooperative urban initiatives in Leipzig.
  • Urban Co-op Berlin (English via Google). Kind of analogous to NASCO Development Services… Urban Co-op Berlin doesn’t own property or do development itself, but helps to advise and coordinate groups interested in creating new cooperatives, and advocates for the interests of cooperative development in the city. They had an interesting series of critiques (and suggestions for the improvement) of the city-run housing concept competition process, which seemed very relevant to the challenges associated with Boulder’s Pollard Motors redevelopment.
  • The Alliance of Young Cooperatives in Berlin (English via Google). An association of more recently formed (like, since the fall of the wall) Berlin housing cooperatives, engaged in citybuilding and advocacy. The newer co-ops seem to differ from the older ones in terms of the financial and property assets they have access to, and maybe also in their political orientation and demographics? Curious to learn more.
  • Kruezberg Forum Housing Cooperative, Berlin (English via Google). One of several cooperative initiatives from the Kruezberg Forum, in the still (relatively) affordable, student and immigrant heavy Kruezberg neighborhood of Berlin.
  • Kalkbreite, Z├╝rich (English via Google), see the English language profiles linked above.
  • Karthago, Z├╝rich (English via Google). A somewhat unusual and radical co-op for Z├╝rich, it grew out of the squatters movement in the 1980s, and now houses 50-60 people in 9 units, with communal dinners every night in a big shared kitchen and dining area. The individual units have small kitchenettes, but on the whole it seems like a kind of giant cluster apartment, composed of 5-6 bedroom shared flats.
  • Mehr als Wohnen, Z├╝rich (English via Google). See the profile in English linked above.
  • Kraftwerk1, Z├╝rich (English via Google). Another relatively radical cooperative development project that grew out of the Z├╝rich real estate crisis of the 1990s.
  • Stadt von Unten (or City from Below), Berlin. A group advocating for re-development of a big city owned property not via top-down planning, but through cooperative initiatives led by the residents of the area (Kreuzberg). They previously successfully lobbied the city not to just cash in the property by selling it to for profit developers.

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Zane Selvans

A former space explorer, now marooned on a beautiful, dying world.

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