Cooperatives in low-income communities

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The Cooperative model has a lot to offer those with little capital, especially when they launch a business or set up a company that does not require a huge up-front investment (such as a homecare or janitorial service co-op, a pre-order food buying club, an equipment-sharing or bulk purchasing co-op, a weatherization or catering co-op, or a community development credit union). Using the power of numbers and the Seven cooperative principles and Cooperative values [1], people can gain better access to good food, good housing, good jobs, good educations, good health and services. They can share the responsibility and work of running a business, and create better opportunities for themselves and their children.  

The modern cooperative is generally regarded as having its roots in Rochdale, England, where impoverished flannel weavers living in the same times and classic conditions of Charles Dickens' novels, organized a co-op to buy uncontaminated food from someplace other than the company store. Historically, in the US both worker- and consumer-owned cooperatives sprang up within the earliest emancipated African American and European immigrant populations, from worker-owned factories to associations of hardscrabble farmers who together purchased inputs, processed and marketed products, and even created the rural electric cooperative system. [2] [3] [4]  

Today, newcomers to the US are still forming Worker co-ops, buying clubs, and agricultural marketing collectives in order to meet their families’ needs and pursue their chosen work. In New York’s South Bronx, Cooperative Home Care Associates anchors a national cooperative network that employs more than 1600 people, most of them from low-income communities and many of them immigrants or first-generation US residents [5].   

Also in New York City, more than half a million people live in middle class, cooperative high rises like Co-op City. But about 30,000 people of low income live in formerly abandoned properties they have renovated and purchased as co-ops[6]. In the same way, thousands of families living in manufactured housing parks across the country are buying their parks and becoming resident owners [7]. And following World War II, young men and women eager to go to college on the GI Bill created the North American Students of Cooperation to create affordable student housing[8].

See Also