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Senior Cooperative Housing

Chris Hawkins Written by Chris Hawkins
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Senior Care & Assisted Living

In senior cooperative housing, active 55 and older residents own a share of the community with an equal voice in how it’s run. The tax benefits of home ownership are there but without the hassle of home upkeep. This makes an ideal transition from long-time home ownership to a more maintenance free life.

Senior Cooperative Housing

Senior cooperative housing has been a fixture in the Midwest for over 35 years and is gaining some traction in the South and West with communities in Florida, Texas, Arkansas and Washington. The majority of the 100 or so communities across 10 states sit in Minnesota.

If you’re a baby boomer retiree looking for alternative living, senior cooperative housing may be the counterculture flashback you’ve been looking for—sans the free love and mind-altering substances. And while co-op living is not exactly a commune or kibbutz, it does share many of the social aspects such as tending to a community garden, on-site activities, and clubs.

How it Works?

Your senior cooperative housing community is a corporation. As a resident, you own the building AND land collectively with the other residents. You and the other residents buy stock in this corporation and become shareholders. Your stock is prorated in value based on the size (square footage) of your home/apartment. Seniors co-ops are operated as non-profits.

Ownership

The target market for senior cooperative housing is middle to upper middle-income seniors.

Becoming a resident and shareholder requires two costs: a one-time share cost (down payment) and a monthly fee. The share cost can be significant, usually 20% to 40% of the unit’s value. Typical unit prices range from $80,000 to $225,000.

Mortgages for co-ops are on what’s called a master mortgage, most often HUD-insured on a 40-year note at a competitive interest rate.

Co-op housing shouldn’t be looked at as a major investment. Yes, your home can appreciate but it’s usually limited (called, ironically, “limited equity”) to 1% or 2% a year. This keeps the units affordable for new residents and decreases the selling time.

Should you decide to sell, the cooperative usually retains the first options to buy. Whether the cooperative or a new resident buys, you receive your share cost plus any accrued equity from the sale. Typically, the co-op helps market and sell the home.

Like a condominium, you have occupancy rights as long as you pay your monthly payment. Stop paying and the co-op can “force sell” your membership.

Home Types

Senior cooperative housing can come in all flavors: single-family home, townhomes, multi-family, high-rise apartments, mobile homes, etc.

Age of Residents

Just like other age-restricted retirement communities, senior cooperative housing communities follow the law. This means that 80% of homes must be occupied by households with one member who is 55 and older.

Senior Co-op vs. Condo

Residents of a senior cooperative own and operate their community through a Board of Directors elected by and from the residents.

Rather than obtaining outside financing as in the case of a condo, you pay a monthly fee to a master mortgage. One monthly fee covers the “mortgage” payment, taxes, insurance, utilities, cable TV, maintenance, and a reserve.

All residents have one vote regardless of the size of their home. All residents are owners, unlike some condos. This means there is likely more pride taken in their community.

The Board of Directors approves new residents, ensuring a better social fit for the community.

Typical Amenities

  • Fitness room
  • Community kitchen
  • Library
  • Community room
  • Workshop
  • Laundry facilities
  • Guest rooms
  • Indoor, heated parking
  • Outdoor gardens

Typical Services

  • Resident managers
  • Maintenance of common areas and home appliances
  • Housekeeping for the common areas
  • On-site transportation
  • Social activities such as book clubs, field trips, discussion groups, movie nights, happy hour, and many others
  • Personal care available from outside sources at additional cost

Positive Impact on Residents

An Ohio State University study on senior cooperative housing found that the majority of residents felt a positive effect on the following:

  • Ease of maintaining home 93%
  • Ability to live independently 84%
  • Personal safety 82%
  • Life satisfaction 80%
  • Access to activities and entertainment 77%
  • Happiness 77%
  • Amount of contact with friends 77%
  • Personal privacy 67%
  • Physical health 63%

Summary

Will senior cooperative housing communities be the next big thing in senior living? Probably not. But for retirees looking for a specific type of living arrangement, these communities fill a niche. It’s another option and that’s a good thing. Not only do you do you get the tax benefits of ownership, you also have an equal voice in deciding how your community operates.

Search the Seniorliving.org database for the senior cooperative housing community near you.

Give Us Your Comments About This Page. This area is not for asking for help .

Comments

[4] Comments... Read them below.
elsie On Jul 10, 2017

Interested in a co-op as a viable living unit as a senior. Info in the article is good.

Glenn Harvey On Jun 11, 2017

We (in our late 70s) have a large, recently renovated home that is on the market, so we can downsize. It is being marketed as a B&B, but we believe that it also could be an ideal 'senior living cooperative' for 3 or 4 couples. It is over 7000SF, three floors, elevator, 4+ acres of lawn and garden. Any suggestions on how to get guidance on setting up a cooperative and, especially, whether a 'master mortgage' is a special HUD category, or if it is just generic mortgage that the cooperative would work out with a local bank?

Reply:

Hello  Mr. Harvey,

In regards to your question, we found the cooperative housing guide from Northcountry Cooperative Foundation as a useful resource for everyone starting a cooperative. Check out their guide at http://www.uwcc.wisc.edu/pdf/Cooperative_housing_Communitydev.pdf

Jan Copeland On Jun 9, 2017

Thank you for this article! Any further advice to follow-up along this line would be greatly appreciated, Mr. Hawkins. Not asking for specific help, just as much general information as you can share. I'm an expat who's lived and worked in Mexico for 25 years, thinking what I'm going to do about retirement. Working up a plan to incorporate my land and country house, set that up as the communal area, build some small bungalows. Four of my friends, also nearing retirement, are going to pay to build their own bungalows near the house and one for me in return for the land/communal house use. We'll all be share-holders and hammer out a plan to prepare for our greater needs as we age. It'll be "Golden Girls" , but with more privacy and independence. This is uncharted territory for us, but we have a can-do attitude, and we're going to "make it so!" Wish us not luck, but good planning! Jan

John Chiluwe On Jun 9, 2017

It a good guide . More technical materials please!!



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