The role of co-operative housing for social sustainability

  • Project

    This research project examines the innovation potential of co-operative and non-profit providers in achieving social sustainability in housing neighbourhoods. The social nature of co-operative governance is particularly seen as a potential advantage over other forms of housing provision when it comes to strengthening social bonds, collective identity and residents’ participation. The context-sensitive research design places housing co-operatives in a broader socio-political framework building on case study evidence from different neighbourhoods. The project will derive conclusions on the design of sustainable institutions in the co-operative housing sector which are crucial for building different types of social capital and contributing to social cohesion in the city.

    In Vienna, social sustainability represents a central pillar of social housing. Besides planning aspects, the concept of social sustainability in housing refers to new forms of resident organisations which promote community-oriented and participatory approaches. These are also traditional principles of cooperative housing which makes them ideal partners for local government in delivering new social housing in Vienna. But to what extent are professional housing cooperatives able to fulfil the expectations placed upon them?

    A crucial precondition seems to be that housing cooperatives go beyond mere administrative duties and provide innovative solutions to pressing societal problems (such as the integration of residents with migrant backgrounds). Nevertheless, social sustainability is not primarily a question of offering additional housing services which has already been done in many cases. It is important however to enable substantial resident participation and mobilise residents’ networks, i.e. activating the ‘social resources’ within cooperative housing organisations. This reminds us of the constant relevance of self-help and self-management as traditional cooperative principles.

    Against this backdrop, qualitative research is applied to analyse the potential of different co-operative and non-profit governance models to mobilise residents’ social capital in a sustainable way. Within a multi-level research design, the analysis goes beyond the organisational level and considers the institutional level of housing policy as well. The results from the organisational and institutional governance level will be contrasted with empirical evidence on the social capital of residents in housing neighbourhoods. Social capital refers to horizontal (bonding and bridging social capital) as well as vertical linkages, so called linking social capital which is defined as the capacity of residents to leverage ideas and resources beyond the neighbourhood level. The results of this research aim to provide impulses for social housing policy in Austria, the co-operative and non-profit housing sector and, of course, also for the residents in order to strengthen social cohesion and collective action on the neighbourhood level.

  • People

    • Richard Lang

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  • Lang, R., Novy, A. (2013): Cooperative Housing and Social Cohesion: The Role of Linking Social Capital. European Planning Studies, DOI:10.1080/09654313.2013.800025.
  • Lang, R. (2013). Social Sustainability in Cooperative Housing. In Widmann, H. (Ed.), Smart City – Viennese Expertise Based on Science and Research, (pp. 69-76). Wien: Schmid.
  • Lang, R. (2012). Soziales Kapital im gemeinnützigen Wohnbau: eine empirische Studie in Wien. IGT – XVII. Internationale Genossenschaftswirtschaftliche Tagung, Wien, Österreich, 18.09.-20.09.
  • Lang, R., Novy, A., Pogorzelska, D., Rößl, D. (2012). Linking Social Capital in Community-based Housing Cooperatives: The Case of Vienna. International Scientific Conference “Property Management in the Context of Knowledge Economy”, Sofia, Bulgaria, 18.05.