To continue my investigations into alternative living options, I found out about this particular option several years ago. There are co-operative’s in the city I live near. I feel it would be beneficial not only financially for all ages but also would allow inhabitants to get to know each other well as they all have a say in the ‘running’ of the community.
A housing co-operative, unlike a commune, is a legal entity, and is a membership-based corporation, which owns residential real estate. With a share purchase in the co-operative, each shareholder has the right to occupy one housing unit. This means member’s resources are pooled giving them buying power leverage. The members also have, through elected representatives, the ability to select who will live within the co-operative. There are two options for the tenure a) non-ownership and b) ownership – with the former a lease is written out for the resident and is subject to the corporation’s bylaws and rules.
Many co-op housing is run by non-profit organizations and some are funded by governmental grants. However, they are not all for low income families or the elderly and benefit from not having a landlord but a Board of Members.
Co-operative housing works well for many people and gives them an option for home ownership they possibly would not have had otherwise.
Our idea of communes favors more hippy movement than governmental control, however, that is exactly what happened under the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong’s administration from 1958 to 1983. The People’s commune model was part of the Great Leap Forward, which demanded the mobilization of peasants in huge water projects during the winter slack seasons and thus improving agricultural production. These communes had political, governmental and economic functions and were divided into production teams and brigades.
Made up of a combination of smaller farm collectives, these communes consisted of 4,000 – 5,000 households and in some cases were as large as 20,000 households. Within the communes everything was shared – private cooking was banned and all kitchen furniture, pots, pans, and utensils were contributed to the main communal kitchen for communal dining. The peasants had no private property.
Assignments of household items, private animals, stored grains and other food items were made available for the commune as a whole. Every morning all farming activities were assigned centrally by cadres and commune leaders assigned each member of the commune with a job or task. In some places, money was outlawed. Even when bad weather hit the communal lands in 1958, 1959 and 1960 and famine became widespread the food resources were still being exported to urban areas.
Decades of governmental turmoil had these communes reconstructed, severely oppressed and eventually disbanded.