At the height of the summer of love in 1964, a group of inspired students, with the help of the Hogg Foundation, came together to build an experimental affordable housing facility. It was created for students and faculty and operated under democratic and cooperative values.
That wild experiment, now known as College Houses Cooperatives, has grown over the past 50 years into an organization with over 500+ current members. Students may better know the organization by the term co-ops, which are houses scattered across West and North Campus.
As a unique alternative to traditional West and North Campus housing, students should consider living at any of the 14 eclectic and communal housing cooperatives offered by College Houses and the Inter-Cooperative Council.
These days valuable housing is hard to find. Many students have become jaded from the prospect of finding livable and affordable housing due to rising prices and the recent scandals within large student housing options around campus.
Co-ops provide an easy escape from the frustrations of traditional student housing — offering affordable living, an open-minded and inclusive atmosphere and a democratic system that puts members in charge of their own house decisions.
“I never expected to find myself at a co-op,” said Anand Pant, a management information systems senior and resident of Taos Co-Op on 2612 Guadalupe St. “But the past three years (here) has been a truly wonderful experience that I would never want to take back.”
After an “annoying” experience at one of the big housing companies in West Campus, Pant decided to lease a single-room at Taos for his sophomore year. He says that his living situation improved dramatically when he made the switch.
“Not only am I paying half of what I was before, I’ve gotten to meet some really great people, and some of my closest friends live here,” Pant said.
While every house boasts its own unique history, culture and traditions, each operates under the 6 Rockdale Principles, recognized by the International Co-operative Alliance and followed by co-ops around the world. You can find these posted on the walls of Wheatsville Co-op, as well. The most outstanding of the principles are democratic member control and concern for the community.
“In a co-op, everyone gets to take part in making decisions for the whole house,” said Joey Samfield, a government junior and resident at House of Commons, an Inter-Cooperative Council on 2610 Rio Grande street. “We talk about and vote on everything from approving new members, changing rules or procedures or buying a new video game for the Wii U.”
These democratic principles also allow diversity, inclusion and open-mindedness to thrive at co-ops. Housing students from different backgrounds, cultures, sexual orientation and gender identities, co-ops provide a safe space for many marginalized students.
Thinh Nguyen, an international relations graduate and member of Laurel Co-Op on 19705 Nueces Street, says living at a co-op has opened his mind to people of different backgrounds, cultures and countries, and says it helped him open up about his own identity.
Participating in a cooperative lifestyle means students get to live in a welcoming and democratic environment where diversity and inclusion is celebrated. These spaces, while providing very affordable housing, also let students feel a part of a larger community with a sense of shared identity and pride from working together. Cooperative lifestyle can offer something for every student.
Phillips is an international relations and rhetoric and writing junior from Houston.