cooperative living


The following six Rochdale principles were adopted in 1966 by the International Co-operative Alliance as the basis for all co-operatives. Each principle is followed by a brief explanation of how it applies to non-profit housing co-operatives.

1.Open and Voluntary Membership

2.Democratic Control

3.Limited Interest on Shares

4.Return of Surplus to Members 

5.Co-operative Education

6.Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives 

7.Concern for Community

Open and Voluntary Membership

Membership of a co-operative society should be voluntary and available without artificial restriction or any social, political or religious discrimination to all persons who can make use of its services and are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.  Membership in a housing co-operative should be open to those who apply in good faith and are aware of the benefits and responsibilities. While it is important for members to be compatible, racial and other forms of discrimination must be ruled out. Housing co-operatives have successfully integrated persons with a wide range of incomes and social backgrounds.

Democratic Control

Co-operative societies are democratic organizations. Their affairs should be administered by persons elected or appointed in a manner agreed by the members and accountable to them. Members of primary societies should enjoy equal rights of voting (one member, one vote) and participation in decisions affecting their societies. In other than primary societies, the administration should be conducted on a democratic basis in a suitable form. Housing co-operatives are primary societies and are based on the principle of one member, one vote.  In housing co-operatives, members are able to make decisions on a wide range of issues, such as maintenance and housing charges, directly, in their members' meetings, and indirectly through their elected representatives. Other than primary societies include second level organizations such as the Co-op Housing Federation and the Co-op Housing Foundation.

Economic Participation

All members contribute fairly to their co-ops which they own in common. Surpluses are held for the future and used to improve the co-op's services.


All agreements the co-op signs with outside organizations or governments should leave the members in control of the co-op.

Co-operative Education

All co-operative societies should make provision for the education of their members, officers and employees and of the general public in the principles and techniques of co-operation, both economic and democratic. Education should be used to inform both the general public and co-op members of the value of this type of housing. In a housing co-op, education occurs through formal and informal means. Informal education includes members living and working together to provide common benefits. Information sources, such as a newsletter, and common activities, such as meetings and social functions, serve as educational vehicles. More formal co-operative education can include seminars for members and courses for committees and/or boards of directors.

Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives

All co-operative organizations, in order to best serve the interests of their members and their communities, should actively co-operate in every practical way with other co-operatives at local, national and international levels. Non-profit co-operative housing projects should recognize that they are part of a larger co-operative housing movement. By organizing and planning with other housing co-operatives and other co-operatives such as credit unions, consumer and daycare co-ops, members can benefit from the many possibilities of co-operation. Where other types of co-ops provide services necessary to housing co-operatives, such as insurance or banking, housing co-operatives should attempt to deal with those organizations rather than private sector institutions.

Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies by their members.