College Houses is a registered 501c3 nonprofit that is cooperatively managed by our student members. Each of our seven west campus co-ops is maintained by its members – we do everything from maintenance to cooking meals (17/week included). Every week, houses hold meetings to discuss policies and plan for the future.
Self-governance means we elect officers to coordinate and manage most day-to-day operations. Not only does this provide excellent opportunities for education and personal growth, it also keeps our costs down tremendously. And, because we’re a non-profit, those savings are passed directly to you.
A cooperative is a very special form of business ownership in which the users or providers of a good or service manage the organization that provides it for them.
Co-ops operate according to the Rochdale principles, named for 27 weavers in Rochdale, England, who in 1844 opened the first modern consumer’s cooperative on Toad Lane. For a year they saved their money and then pooled it to open their business based on the principles they had developed.
That is what we do here at College Houses. The membership pools its money and labor to provide shelter, amenities, food, fellowship and an academic environment. The consolidation of member efforts results in affordable housing and a living environment that teaches life skills for the future. (Like learning how to cook for a hundred people). Incorporating the six Rochdale principles into our daily lives and the way we operate gives us the foundation to operate as a cooperative.
The original College House was formed in 1964 as a student government project with help from a sustaining grant by the Hogg Foundation. The purpose was to create a housing facility and academic environment for University students and faculty with many of the features of a residential college. College Houses was to have the convenience of a dormitory with a rich program of intellectual activities.
Since 1964, College Houses membership has grown tremendously. What began as an experiment for a small number of student scholars to interact with faculty and staff has evolved into a housing cooperative that seeks to provide a unique living experience for its 500+ members at the most affordable price in the neighborhood. We have survived the Austin real estate ups and downs and now have a strong cooperative community providing every necessity for the college students in an environment that the members manage and enjoy.
Democratic Community Control
Members participate at various levels in the democratic decision-making process. Each member has one vote in making decisions on important matters such as housing charges, the election of directors, and changes to the rules and regulations members are expected to follow. Members agree to meet their monthly obligations and abide by the co-op bylaws, rules, and regulations. Tenants in other organizations typically do not have the opportunity to exercise responsibility or participate in decision making.
Democratic organizations thrive on diversity and inclusion. Many co-op members indicate the possibility for interaction with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and income levels is a positive factor in their decision to become a member.
Our Board of Directors, House Leadership, General Membership, and Staff collaborate to continuously & consciously review our infrastructure, policy, and culture to cultivate a living environment that is welcoming and accessible to all, where diversity is celebrated.
However, we are not the perfect picture of inclusion. College Houses recognized our organization, like all organizations, can contain hidden forms of oppression. So we asked the worker collective, AORTA, for an anti-oppression audit. We took the results to heart, and we currently are working on their recommendations.
We do not take discrimination of any kind lightly. Our 7 houses are safe-spaces; empowering our membership to be comfortable with who they are in their home. We want to cultivate an environment where all members can learn, express themselves, experience leadership, and discover who they are.
We welcome you to check out our resources on anti-oppression .
Co-ops are communities within larger communities. Members share common goals and a sense of identity and pride from working together. Co-ops make good neighbors, and can revitalize neighborhoods. Many set up recreational, social, educational, and mutual help programs.