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Q: I received an offer in the mail from a company in San Diego. They offer a service to protect the title on our home from someone stealing it to take out loans for credit lines and second mortgages without our knowledge. According to the company, these thieves would take the money and leave us with the legal obligation to pay back the funds.

Cooperative: Businesses (spanning childcare, transportation, farming, financial services) owned and democratically controlled by their members who share the risks and benefits

Housing cooperative: A residence whose members collectively own and control it

Co-housing: Community with private living spaces and shared resources

Community land trust: Nonprofits that own and manage land primarily for the stewardship of affordable housing

Housing cooperative equity structures

Market rate: Typically require members to buy in at a greater share, and members can sell share at market price when they leave the co-op

Limited equity: Separate ownership and use rights to preserve affordability, share resale price limited

Zero or group equity: Nonprofits organized to provide affordable housing alternatives, members have control over operations in a democratically elected board but do not have legal ownership or equity claim on the cooperative

• Cooperatives are businesses owned and democratically controlled by their members, who share the risks and benefits. They span sectors including childcare, transportation, farming and financial services.  

• Wisconsin's strong cooperative laws make the state a friendly place for starting one, and housing co-ops, in particular, are built into the culture of Madison.

• Housing cooperatives can be a part of the solution to address Madison's housing affordability challenges, however, the co-op lifestyle may not work for everyone.

• Madison recently made changes to its zoning code and Affordable Housing fund that could encourage more housing cooperatives.

• Advocates hope they can be part of the solution to the city's housing challenges, but some changes may be needed to ensure cooperative living is welcoming for all who seek it.

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