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Guide to Forming a Housing Co-op

Imagine friends as neighbors. And design your dream homes together.

recruit

1. RECRUIT

structure

2. STRUCTURE

tasks

3. TASKS

building

4. BUILDING

celebration

5. CELEBRATE

recruit

1. RECRUIT

Get a minimum of 3 people.

Once you’ve told a few friends, it’s likely that a handful have expressed interest in the idea of co-ops. The goal is to get at least three people who have an interest in the planning stages. (Not everyone has this natural enthusiasm, and that’s ok.)

Start visiting some co-ops together and talking about your likes, dislikes, and concerns. Bring questions for the co-op members. Visit co-ops that are similar and dissimilar to the type of co-op you’re looking to form. You can learn from all types.

Make sure you have all come to a general agreement about exploring the idea together. Your vision, neighborhood, finances, etc don’t have to match up perfectly just yet. Comparing Fireplace profiles with each other or doing a group compatibility evaluation is a great start, but not requried. Just be sure to have an initial conversation together.

Icon by Eliricon via The Noun Project

structure

2. STRUCTURE

Document your decisions.

Your group will make many decisions – both casual and official along the way. They may include things like:

  • whether to be a pet-friendly building
  • whether to share utilities
  • location criteria
  • building condition
  • whether to have a shared kitchen
  • the amount of socializing to tolerate
  • … and so on.

Do your best to track them and log them. The more you document now, the less you have to document later.

Documenting all of your decisions also prevents the same topics from being brought up over and over, taking time away from your discussion. It gives your gatherings more structure, especially when there is such a wide range of topics that may come up.

Create a handbook.

Documentation becomes an important step before creating an official handbook. This is a way to give your group some boundaries and sense of commitment.

The handbook gets everyone on the same page. It’s especially useful when there are new people interested. It helps get them caught up and sets expectations. By reading the handbook they can get a sense of whether it’s the right fit for them and perhaps learn about co-ops for the first time.

Signing off on written documentation, like a handbook, allows your group to move forward in a deliberate manner with more involved and personal action items. This kind of commitment is required before looking at properties can be seriously entertained.

Icon by Bastien Delmare via The Noun Project

tasks

3. TASKS

The following tasks can happen simultaneously. The goal is to line up the necessary requirements for when the perfect property does come along, your group is ready to pounce on it. Given the handbook is accepted, each person in the group should be ready to take on these steps collectively.

Discuss personal finances with loan officer or mortgage broker.

This often involves a simple worksheet detailing assets, income, debts, etc. We have a free guide to prep you before meeting with a lender. Email us if you're interested.

Draft up necessary paperwork.

This includes legal documentation for incorporation like bylaws and an operating budge, a property agreement, and an occupancy agreeemnt.

Search for properties.

Get people in your group (especially the ones who love real estate) to start scouting some properties and reporting back to the group. We feature Chicagoland properties in our Good Housing newsletter.

Icon by mikicon via The Noun Project

building

4. BUILDING

Finalize documents.

This will include the official application with the lender.

Finalizing the property agreement, occupancy agreements will mean major decisions need to be confirmed. A purchase agreement will need to be drafted with the particular property in mind.

Incorporation does not have to be complete, but the process needs to be underway for the lender to allow the loan application process to proceed.

Although your group may still be in the middle of applying for a loan, the lender can grant your group a Letter of Interest. Realtors may require this before showing property to make sure your group is serious.

Icon by Oliviu Stoian via The Noun Project

celebration

5. CELEBRATE

Enjoy it

Assuming your loan was approved, your property was acquired and your group has moved in, celebrate the fact that you’ve come a long way. Housing cooperatives are still rare in Chicago – especailly ones that truly practice the cooperative principles. Throw an epic party.

Involve the Community

This should’ve been in your plan since the beginning, but be sure that your immediate community can be involved in this great achievement and that word spreads to other families and enclaves. Reach out to local chambers of commerce, businesses, public schools, parks, libraries, community centers, family and friends and proudly let them know what you’ve accomplished.

Share the knowledge.

Be sure to share your lessons learned with other groups interested in forming. Contact us if you'd like us to share something with our network.

Icon by bmijnlieff via The Noun Project

Remember, your group can faction off into other smaller groups:

form an initial group

Jump to Beginner's Guide to Housing Co-ops

Or go back to our project page.