In France, a Retirement Co-op Ensures Seniors Are Not Treated as Commodities
"They didn't want to end up in a traditional retirement home. They wanted to remain the actors in their own lives. Seven years after their first discussions about how to age well, a group of retired people is starting to build the first co-op for the aging. Non-speculation, democracy and environmental concern are the foundations of the "Chamarel-Les Barges" project, located in a neighborhood of Vaulx-en-Velin, east of Lyon, France. The project is so inspiring that the bank has even conferred a 50-year loan to the founders, who are in their 60s."
Housing cooperatives are not popular with the real estate industry, bankers, or title companies. They love condominium ownership because it creates many individual units that can be bought and sold, creating a whole lot of business for everybody involved in real estate transactions. But most of the people who live in co-ops find them a good living and ownership arrangement. In a co-op, each resident has a proprietary lease that entitles them to exclusive occupancy of their unit, and also a share of stock in the corporation that owns the entire property. In other words, each resident is a tenant, and collectively they are their own landlord. There is only one blanket mortgage on the whole property. And in order to sell a share, the new prospective owner has to be approved by the co-op board. Usually co-op shares are not viewed primarily as investments, as many condominium units are, so there is more permanence and less selling at the slightest sign of falling real estate prices. There seems to be less conflict in co-ops than in condominiums, and on the whole they survived the crash better than condominiums, or at least that seems to be the predominant opinion.