With roots in the women's movement of the late 1800s, group equity co-ops have continued against the odds for almost 150 years, finding ways to create both affordable housing and community across North America.
Group equity co-ops are solidly rooted in the Chicago area, first rising as a practical solution to the very real needs of nineteenth-century single women. But this self-help approach eventually became an important option for anyone with financial need.
"We'll do it ourselves" became a particularly strong rallying cry during the Great Depression, when out of desperate necessity, students and others found ways to independently meet their housing and dining needs through group action. With grit and sheer determination, co-ops found ways to purchase and even build houses, harnessing both entrepreneurial skills and idealistic beliefs to begin expansion-oriented, scattered site systems from California and British Columbia to Halifax and Florida.
Today, more than ten thousand members of group equity housing co-ops share ownership and a strong sense of community from coast to coast. NASCO, the North American Students of Cooperation, and its affiliates provide education and training, consulting, and even a continent wide housing trust for ownership. The organization runs inter-cooperative loan programs, offers internships, and hosts the annual Cooperative Education and Training Institute, which attracts hundreds of co-op members and staff each year.
This model of cooperative housing has grown from renting rooming houses to ownership of property worth millions of dollars, but it has only scratched the surface of what can be achieved. The group equity movement has "hastened slowly" toward a distant destination, guided by its ever-changing members, and it seems certain to continue for years to come.
This book is the story of that journey.
Written by NASCO's Former Executive Director Jim Jones.