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Achieving the American Dream: Shared Property Ownership


An Equity Problem

We are living in a society that champions home ownership but offers only one main route to get there. And for the majority - it's unaffordable.

The benefits of shared property ownership are often overshadowed by horror stories and stereotypes, making it difficult to build awareness of a more accurate view.

The dominant housing options are so ingrained in Americans' perception of housing that most can't imagine any flexible possibilities existing in-between.

Yet this "third option" is full of untapped benefits. How might we get more of the mainstream to consider shared property ownership as an alternative to owning / renting property?



We believe shared property ownership has the power to address serious housing issues we're facing as a culture. It allows its members to invest in property affordably. It offers privacy but is also built upon real relationships with neighbors if you need human interaction (especially in our world of isolation and digital distraction).

This project attempts to bring more awareness to the option and facilitate the process so people can overcome their fears, avoid the pitfalls, and reap the benefits.

We Create Tools to Better Understand the Idea & Process behind Shared Property Ownership

We are proposing a more proactive, design-focused campaign that embraces other relevant sectors - including affordable housing, community & economic development, policy, real estate, and technology.

Read more about our multiple efforts under "Design Iterations"

If it's more your style, you can stay updated through Facebook (@goodhousing) or our Good Housing newsletter.



Our commitment to systems-thinking demands us to investigate root causes. With this in mind, our interview questions for users are shaped by some foundational questions that we ask ourselves as a team.

  • What drives the stereotypes behind shared ownership?
  • What makes property ownership such an important life decision / milestone?
  • Why are people convinced that they know what the traditional options offer (and therefore what lesser known options can't offer)?
  • What can be learned from the traditional real estate industry that can be applied to shared ownership?
  • Is there a natural place for those who might have an interest but don't want to go through the planning process?
  • What are the commitment issues associated with shared ownership? How can we help overcome those issues or help show options that bypass those issues?
  • Why should condo owners or homeowners consider switching to shared ownership?
  • What kinds of financing options and legal structures are available for shared property ownership?
  • What defines the 'American Dream'?
  • Which obstacles are in place that make the shared property ownership process difficult? Why?
  • What incentives exist for other industries to embrace shared ownership? Which ones need to be shifted for it to become a mainstream option?
  • Can shared property ownership positively reform the developer-dominated world of real estate?

Validating Assumptions

We conducted user interviews with homeowners, renters, realtors, co-op shareholders, industry leaders and neighborhood organizations to validate our initial assumptions.

Thanks to the many stakeholders who offered their valuable feedback.

  • Chicago Community Loan Fund
  • Neighborhood Housing Services
  • Chicago Rehab Network
  • New Community Vision
  • Living Room Realty
  • Sol House Cooperative
  • Logan Square Cooperative

Learn More On Your Own



Based on our research, we brainstormed numerous ideas/features for our proposed solution. They ranged from conducting workshops for those interested in starting the process of shared ownership to creating flyers for community groups.

The design direction we took prioritized features that emulated the traditional real estate process.


Design Iterations

Housing co-ops, a version of shared property ownership, is a housing option that is not well-known and shrouded in myths. In fact, it is a model that allows you to custom-design your housing you can be proud of, can afford, with people you trust, and to invest in your neighborhood.

This is an issue that requires many simultaneous approaches. These are some that we are working on:

Group Compatability Tool

Fireplace is a tool we're developing to help groups of people evaluate their own group of people. It makes the daunting process of involving others easier by understanding important information about each other from the beginning. Sign up for updates!

Personalized Vision Boards

A vision board is a good starting point to get your unique vision out of your head and onto paper. This is useful to show potential co-op members to immediately see which values/goals are shared. If you need help, this is a service we offer!

vision board
vision board
vision board

More Efforts

  • More and more visual diagrams to illustrate the process, making it easier to understand.
  • Maintaining a facebook group that curates related articles/events and allows people to connect.
  • Providing custom design services for co-op units, using a competitive bid process to lower costs.
  • Refreshing the design for the Cooperative Communities of Chicago website with a user-centered focus.

Previous Iterations

list of perks
  • Have as much privacy as a typical apartment/condo unit.
  • Own property when you don't qualify for traditional financing.
  • Live in a unit without neighbors that bug you.
  • Own property with a close-knit group of friends rather than a condo association.
  • Customize your unit without worrying about a landlord.
diagram for different individuals

We presented some of our efforts at the annual Co-ops and Communities event hosted by CCLF and NASCO on Saturday, June 27, 2015. Thank you for all of the wonderful feedback! Check out the agenda and stay tuned for this year's event.


Measuring Success

For our group compatibility tool, we are measuring engagement on our landing page and tracking beta tester interest.

Other sources of benchmarking include our Good Housing newsletter, our Facebook page, our in-person workshops and events, and the services we offer.

Please contact us about how to get involved.