Tell us about your co-op and its role within the community?
College Houses is a student-owned and operated housing cooperative with 532 members, revenues of about $3.6 million, and assets of about $17.5 million. We make college more affordable by charging about half the amount the university charges for housing. We also provide organizational, logistical and financial support for other co-ops on a local and national level.
What is the most innovative thing your co-op has done?
College Houses recently created a new program called Co-op Certified, which aims to fulfill the 5th and 7th cooperative principles of education, training and information and concern for the community. During this eight-week program, participants explore what it means to be a member of their cooperative.
Topics covered include basic co-op history and information, College Houses structure and history, taking action at all levels, and building skills such as meeting facilitation and consensus decision-making. Through this program, College Houses hopes to empower emerging cooperative leaders.
Tell us about a business challenge your co-op has faced and how you responded to that challenge?
In 2004 College Houses lost about $259,000. Members, the Board, and staff put their heads together to deal with the challenge. A large number of student apartments had been built the previous year, leading to higher vacancy rates throughout
We decided against across-the-board budget cuts. Instead, we increased the marketing and maintenance budgets while cutting some administrative costs. Members understood that we needed to make sure every student knew co-ops are a great place to live and that we didn’t want to save money at the expense of maintaining our buildings.
The result was increased membership with a break-even budget in 2005 and a return to profitability in 2006.