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Forming Green Cooperatives: The Answer To Homelessness!

A cooperative can allow average people with average income jobs the ability to own high value properties and lower their living expenses simultaneously. To purchase shares in a co-op, each buyer takes out a "share loan" instead of a traditional mortgage. These loans operate much like mortgages, but in addition to the loan payments made to the lender, co-op residents are responsible for paying a pro-rata share of the common costs of running and maintaining the building. Cooperative housing (commonly described by referring to an individual co-op) is a type of homeownership common to apartment buildings in big cities such as New York. For practical intents and purposes, a co-op can be defined as a building that is jointly owned by a corporation made up of all its inhabitants.

The owner of a co-op does not own his or her unit. The co-op is a corporation, complete with a corporate board of directors, and each resident is a “shareholder.” Co-op buyers do not sign a deed. Instead, they purchases shares of the corporation, shares that include a lease granting use of a specific unit. One unit can be put aside to rent to a business like a convenience store or Dental Practice this unit could potentially cover the mortgage and many of the bills of the building lowering everyone's overall costs of living, this is called an "Anchor Business".

By definition, a co-op, or a “cooperative home,” is usually a multi-family piece of real estate in which a business entity usually created by the residents holds the title to the property. The residents gain equity in the building by buying shares in that business. Co-op residents own a share of the property, but not the deed to the property itself so no single resident can take the property.Upon Closing, the Stock Certificate and Proprietary Lease shall be given by the Corporation in the name of the Purchaser. The total shares are generally stated on one Stock Certificate and you receive generally a Proprietary Lease. Because you don't technically own real estate when you buy a co-op, so you don't build home equity. But your shares will appreciate or lose value along with the rest of the real estate market, and you may still incur capital gains taxes when you sell.

Cooperative residents usually are responsible for their own utility costs and maintaining the interior of their individual units. About 90% of cooperatives succeed after the first year while 60-80% of traditional businesses fail after the first year. Disenfranchised people like those affected by the recent fires in Hawaii can form cooperatives and take back their ancestral properties and lands.

Mutual Housing Association’s first green certified multifamily development, Mutual Housing at the Highlands, has been completed after an eight year effort. Located on a 3.5 acre parcel in the

McClellan Redevelopment Area in the north part of Sacramento, the Highlands has 90 units—62 efficiency units: 16 one-bedrooms and12 three-bedrooms. Of the 90 units, 66 are for the homeless, also a first for Mutual Housing.

In California an example can be seen in a co-op firm called Mutual Housing, which serves 2,600 residents, half of whom are children, has been known for its green focus since 2003 when the nonprofit became the first multifamily developer to install solar electricity in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. “Mutual Housing has a long-standing commitment to sustainable development in all our affordable housing properties,” said Holly Wunder - Stiles, Sacramento |Yolo Mutual Housing Association’s Director of Housing Development. Starting with the solar orientation of the buildings to save energy, the housing includes ductless heating in the smaller units and evaporative coolers in the larger ones as well as tankless water heaters in each.

Higher-than-standard insulation and radiant barriers in the roof also add to energy-efficiency.

Utility rebates allowed Mutual Housing to install solar panels for both electricity and hot-water.

Drought -resistant landscaping, smart irrigation, low - flow toilets, high -efficiency faucets and shower heads, and Energy Star appliances added to the water-saving aspects of the community. Cabinets, interior trim and flooring were made from durable, long-lasting materials, so they won’t need to be replaced as often as conventional choices would have been. Low-mercury lighting was an important consideration for ease of disposal.

Because of health issues of homeless individuals, indoor air quality was a major consideration for the development. A two week air flush-out of the housing units, between completion and occupancy, will give residents higher indoor air quality than usual. Because the States of New York, California, and Massachusetts among others and the federal government subsidize homeowners who install solar panels on their roofs (as they should). It doesn’t seem to matter to the tax code that the solar panels may be tiny — measured in inches rather than feet, and mounted directly on the skylights to provide just enough electricity to open and close them. Even teeny-tiny panels count, even though they don’t produce any electricity for the rest of the home. The resulting energy savings of operable skylights turn this into that rare instance when tax incentives come with an apparent loophole that actually does a lot of good.

More of these kinds of incentives at the federal, state, and city level would allow more people to be able to afford to decarbonize their homes. We were lucky to be able to spend $100,000 and then some on a home renovation. Sure, our own Con Ed bill is now down to around $100 a month.In New York City, Local Law 97, which goes into effect in 2024, offers big incentives to developers and owners to cut emissions, such as financing up to 100 percent of project costs with heavily subsidized loans that are paid back via property taxes. It isn’t just incentive-based — those that don’t comply will face penalties. The long-term goal is to cut 40 percent of emissions by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. But it only applies to buildings greater than 25,000 square feet.

Black owned cooperatives for housing and farming have been part of America since 1907 when W.E.B. Dubois did a study on it. African Americans in the United States have been involved in some form of cooperative business development or collective economics since reconstruction. And, why is that important? Because so many are interested in using cooperative models for community economic development, particularly in Black communities, everywhere it seems people are told that black people don’t do co-ops but this is untrue. We know that W.E.B. Du Bois promoted economic cooperation. We know that he was an editor of the NAACP‘s magazine for 25 or 30 years, so he must have said something in his magazine about co-ops” By looking at every issue of The Crisis magazine, we found out that over a period of about 25 years, starting around 1918, there were at least seven different articles about Black cooperatives or cooperative economics.

Du Bois’ position was that African Americans were discriminated against economically, that we were trying to become capitalists and gain individual wealth just like other Americans, however it wasn’t working because of racism and discrimination. He said that we should voluntarily form a group economy based on a sense of solidarity and use producer and consumer cooperatives to position ourselves to serve our economic needs separately from the white economy. This way we could control our own goods and services and gain income and wealth - stabilize ourselves and our communities. Then if we wanted to join the mainstream economy, we could join from a position of strength.

Du Bois said this in various ways from about 1897 until the end of his life. Aside from doing the full study in 1907, he actually held a conference at Atlanta University that same year. He was holding annual conferences about African Americans during that period at Atlanta University, and in 1907 the conference topic was “Negro Businesses and Cooperatives.” Du Bois was among the speakers at that conference and he had other people talk about cooperative activity among Negroes. He said in one of my favorite speeches that “we unwittingly stand at the crossroads—should we go the way of capitalism and try to become individually rich as capitalists, or should we go the way of cooperatives and economic cooperation where we and our whole community could be rich together?” He was afraid that we were choosing the wrong path – individualism.


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