Norway Equitable Housing Cooperative
The Norway Equitable Housing Cooperative has been growing since July 2021 with the help of the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy. A small group of local renters and members of CEBE have been meeting regularly around a shared need and vision for equitable, energy efficient, inspired housing in our town to address needs that current rental housing and federally- and state-subsidized affordable housing do not.
The site we’re looking to develop into 12-18 net-zero units is a half-acre in a residential neighborhood within walking distance of Main Street Norway. In September of 2022, we raised funds to purchase and secure the site, and currently, we’re putting together viable design and business plans and fundraising for the demolition of existing buildings, site remediation, and construction of the cooperative. We hope to begin construction by 2024.
Super air-tight, energy-efficient apartments, small studios for individuals, three-bedrooms for families, and accessible units for all who need them. Two south-facing buildings with solar roofs house every unit, because each unit won't need a full-scale kitchen or laundry when theres a third building with industrial kitchen, laundry facilities, and welcoming gathering space for everyone to share. Outside there will be plenty of room to garden and enjoy the outdoors— even EV chargers and bikes to share.
How Does a Housing Cooperative Work?
Cooperatives are a business model that can allow any organization to be owned by its workers, residents, or customers, and democratically run by those owners.
In the housing cooperative model, all resident-owners cooperatively own shares of the corporation that operates as their landlord. This allows resident-owners to decide how the cooperative develops and how income gets reinvested back into the maintenance of their own homes.
NEHC plans to operate as a Limited Equity Housing Cooperative. In order to move in residents would purchase a share in our Cooperative corporation, and pay shared
monthly utility and maintenance fees. Typically, prospective residents live at the cooperative for a "trial period" of six months or more so both the new and existing Cooperative members can decide if the new member is a good fit with the community.
A Limited Equity Cooperative gets its name because it limits the resale of its shares, and the value of a share can only increase at the rate of inflation. This eliminates real estate speculation and ensures units stay affordable over time. The purchase of a member share is a relatively stable investment for residents and builds equity over time— the sale of which could eventually be put toward the purchase of a home if they so choose. This is the only structure we're aware of that creates a path toward homeownership for renters.
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July 2022: Note from Project Coordinator, Thea Hart
In one year of researching affordable housing development and speaking with experts in the field, it’s been made clear to us that cooperatively-owned housing is relatively new territory for them and that resident-developed projects are nearly unheard of. Those who are in need of quality, affordable, equitable housing rarely have the extra time, energy, money, and connections required to create the housing they need. At times in the past year, our lack of collective equity and our necessarily slower pace has put us at a disadvantage in the competition for development-- but it is clear to me that this project is inspiring many, is unique and adaptable, and is powerful and possible because of the people, shared needs, and vision at the heart of it. Thanks in no small part to the support, networks and resources of CEBE and our steering committee, our core group of hopeful resident-owners has been able to remain at the center of this project and generate the momentum needed to carry it through this past year, and forward.
This project is largely volunteer-led and has been quoted at $2 to $5 million dollars to complete. We are up against large well-resourced developers in the competition for funding through many of the affordable housing programs we are planning to apply to. Our project is unique in addressing the specific needs of our area, and in being visioned and driven by future resident-owners. We need all the support we can get. Please consider making a donation to help provide quality, equitable, energy-efficient, and community-supportive housing in Norway.