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What is a Housing Co-op?

What is a Housing Co-op?

Type of housing owned by a corporation made up of the owners within the co-op.

Welcome to Emma Guardia Today's topic is what is Co-op? Here in Cambridge co-ops are limited (6 in the entire city), but it's important to know how they are unique and different from a condominium.

Very simply a housing cooperative (aka co-op) is a type of housing owned by a corporation made up of the owners within the co-op. The corporation owns the interior, exterior, and all common areas of the building. Unlike a traditional real estate transaction, owners do not receive a deed, instead, they buy a share of the corporation that controls the co-op, which entitles them to a living space.

Perhaps you have heard of a food co-op or a worker co-op? The idea is similar, they all are typically managed without the aim of earning a profit, with every shareholder sharing in the expenses for maintenance and services of the co-op.

The Management and Structure of a Co-op:

When it comes to the structure of co-ops, there are different ownership responsibilities to be aware of.

In a co-op, every tenant is a shareholder. All members of the co-op association vote on rules and regulations, as well as how the building will be managed. Typically a co-op board is elected from those in the association wishing to volunteer to take care of administrative work. Management companies are also often hired by the co-op to aid them with day-to-day property management.

The collective co-op association is responsible to manage membership fees in order to cover:

  • Building maintenance
  • Property taxes
  • Amenities
  • Any underlying mortgages attached to the property and its units- this is a big difference between a co-op and a condo association!

Whats the Difference Between a Co-op and a Condo?


Condos and co-ops may have common areas, amenities, and services provided by their respective associations that greatly add to the value of the property or co-op shares. This is a big distinction from a single-family home that lenders evaluate, in order to make sure the association or the co-op can continue to meet its financial obligations and provide services in the long term. Many of the documents used to review the viability of a co-op association are similar to condo review documents. The process includes, but isnt limited to:

  • Budget and financial review
  • Insurance certificates review
  • 6D certificates to make sure all dues on the unit are paid up to date
  • Meeting minutes - notes from association meetings are typically requested from the last few months
  • A review for compliance with ownership restrictions including that a single entity may only own a limited number of units, and 50% of the units must be occupied as a primary residence
  • Review of the blanket mortgage for the co-op if there is one
  • Bylaws


  • The biggest differences between a condo and a co-op are:
  • With a condo, you have a deed and you can own the physical property that is the condo.
  • In a co-op, you dont own the land or the property, instead, you own a share in the corporation that owns the co-op.
  • The approval/application process is different because the corporation is responsible if you default on your share of the mortgage, they will want to review your offer to purchase into the co-op and approve your joining of the co-op.
  • The process usually includes live interviews and a review of your financial documentation. When buying a condo, individual applicants arent interviewed by the association.
  • The financial payoff for a condo is equivalent to the potential for owning a house because you own the condo itself.

Coop Buildings in Cambridge:

  • 1010 Memorial Drive
  • 985 Memorial Drive
  • 986 Memorial Drive
  • 983 Memorial Drive
  • 872 Massachusetts Avenue
  • 141 Oxford Street

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