This blog from the Cooperative BANK, JAKs, summer seminar, is in English; most people in Sweden are familiar with HSB but co-operative co-housing is not as widespread in many other countries. For Transitioners this form of co-housing maybe offers possibilities to build or convert apartment buildings to be run on renewable energy, to recycle nutrients and use water ecologically.
Magnus Frank, board member for one of the regional cooperatives in central Sweden, presented the organisation for us.
The driver for co-housing and the cooperative housing association goes back to the late 1800s. Swedish towns were growing, housing was hard to find. It was the norm that 25m2 housed 7 people and not all of those m2 were standing room!
Most housing was rental and renters had not rights whatsoever and could find themselves suddenly out on the snowy streets with nowhere to go.
HSB started in 1923 with the ambition to provide “good living” housing. Like most co-operatives it held a variety of operations: construction, savings bank and factory -. even a stone quarry!
HSB demonstrates another quality many successful cooperatives show: innovation., HSB introduced rubbish chutes, communal laundry and were early with day care centres.
Like all cooperatives, one member one vote is the norm. Each building or block is a separate cooperative and a board takes care of the building. Each cooperative requires members to purchase both a share in the building as a whole and a right to use one particular house or apartment. It is this “right to use” that can be sold on the open market when the owner leaves.
There are 3800 such cooperatives in Sweden, and a total of some 500,000 individual members. Each cooperative in turn is a member of the regional cooperative which provides maintenance and operation and administration services to the member cooperatives and education and other services like a savings facility and bulk purchasing of white goods to members. The regional cooperative works to establish new cooperatives by being the main contractor for new buildings. They often have no construction operations themselves, but engage construction companies in the project. Financing can be 50 – 50 between the regional cooperative and the construction company. When the building is finished, it is sold to the cooperative that will live there. Profit is shared between the regional cooperative and the construction company.
Just now, new construction is expensive, meaning that only those who are a good way up the housing ladder can afford to buy an apartment. HSB regions are building apartments to rent instead to give young people a good start in life. At the same time, HSB runs a saving scheme that gives savers points in the queue to new apartments and money to invest in their new home.
HSB aligns to the seven principles of cooperatives as laid down by ICA the international Cooperative Association, so HSB is committed to teaching about cooperative principles and working sustainably and to promote the social good.