Can I live with you?
We don’t have a house yet, but we’re working hard on it. The house will be meant primarily for members of our collective.
Where are you looking to buy the house?
We are currently looking in Prague and the surrounding area.
Why doesn’t each of you buy your own house?
As individuals, we wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage (and who wants to tie themselves to one?). We also want to live communally, not only on our own. Living together will be cheaper than if each of us had an individual mortgage. We can also save money by sharing a lot of things, both material (we don’t need to each have our own washing machine or set of tools), and non-material (when we need to spend a larger amount of money, like fixing the roof, it’s better to raise money in a group of 15 people than to pay for it individually). Another reason is that collective ownership is socially just and prevents speculation. It is more acceptable for us that the house is owned by a social cooperative and we are just tenants. Housing is a human right and it should not be conditional on whether one owns property or not.
So why don’t you just rent, if you don’t want to own a house?
Rental housing in Prague is insecure (you rarely get a contract for an indefinite period of time), and it’s very expensive. Because the cooperative will not rent our house out for profit, it will be possible to set rent lower than usual market rates. One of the advantages of houses managed in this way is that rent levels are stable. At a time when rent and mortgage rates are rising around us, our tenants can be confident that their rent won’t go up, and they won’t have to worry about affording a place to live. After all, the house won’t be managed for the owner’s profit, but for the mutual benefit of everyone in the network, and to support potential future projects.
How communal will your housing be – what will you have in common?
We plan to have a large room for communal events, and we would like to share things that are not necessarily needed in every apartment, such as a laundry room, a workshop, and the like. However, it will be up to everyone how much they “share”. Some of us want to have a separate bathroom, others don’t mind sharing a bathroom with other people. Everyone will be able to live in their own way.
How can I join?
If you’re interested in communal, affordable housing, please get in touch. We don’t automatically accept everyone into the collective, as there is an approval process that must be gone through, but if you’re interested in working with our collective, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can keep you up to date on what’s going on with Shared Houses, and we can discuss other forms of collaboration.
Do you only operate in Prague?
The Shared Houses Collective was founded in Prague, and we want to buy a house in Prague or its immediate surroundings. If a similar collective appears elsewhere in the country, we will be happy to support it and include it in our planned network. We will create a support group that will share the knowledge we have gained, whether legal, financial, or otherwise. We can help in dealing with the various difficulties and conflicts the group may encounter, so that our successors do not repeat the same mistakes we have made. The whole project is a grassroots initiative by which people can ensure, through their own efforts, that housing does not swallow most of their earnings. Anyone can get involved. Our aim is to pave a way that will make it easier for others to follow. It is up to you if you’d like to support the idea of shared houses by starting your own sister house and contributing to affordable and decent housing in the Czech Republic. We will be happy to help you.
Why are you a social cooperative? What is “social” about you?
We focus on people who are disadvantaged in access to housing (such as students, young families with insufficient income, persons without assets and savings, pensioners, people in debt) and who are disadvantaged socially (such as single mothers, parents during and after maternity and parental leave, long-term unemployed, members of excluded communities).
Does this mean that you provide social housing?
No. Our aim is communal housing for members of our collective. The social aspect of our project is to focus on people who are disadvantaged in their access to housing.
If you are dedicated to housing, why aren’t you a housing cooperative?
We decided against forming a housing cooperative, because that model does not comply with the basic conditions of our network. In a housing cooperative, shares in the cooperative can be inherited and resold. The cooperative could lose control over who is a member, and there is a risk of speculation on the value of shares. There is also nothing to prevent a cooperative member from renting out their flat at a high rate or selling their flat at a profit after transferring it to private ownership. Finally, in housing cooperatives each flat has one vote, whereas in our model, each member of the collective has one vote.
Then why did you choose the form of cooperative?
We are following a long tradition of cooperatives in our country (the first cooperative in the Czech Lands was established in 1847, three years after the first cooperative ever). It is also a legal form that makes it possible to put our idea into practice and to fulfil our principles.
You refer to a “network,” but there is only one cooperative in it so far. How so?
Establishing a network of house projects is a long-term affair. We hope that when we buy our house, we will inspire others to establish collectives with similar aims. Shared Houses has, for its part, has taken inspiration from the German network Mietshäusersyndikat, which was founded in the late 1980s and now has over 150 house projects. We are not that ambitious yet, as we are only at the beginning of our endeavours. To take another example, the Austrian habiTAT network, which was founded when the collective bought its first house in Linz only four years ago, already includes seven projects today.
What is the purpose of such a network?
The umbrella organisation has a share in all the cooperatives that own individual houses (see the legal structure for more details). This ensures that the cooperative cannot sell the house or commercialise it in any other way (for example, rent it out as an airbnb). Therefore, the house is permanently removed from the real estate market and cannot be the target of speculation. However, the network also provides solidarity. A small portion of each rental payment goes into a common solidarity fund, which can be used to provide financial support for future projects, such as direct loans to new collectives.
We are a collective that would like to buy a house and join your network. What should we do?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll respond to you and discuss how we can help.
I don’t have money, but I would like to support you. Is that possible?
We welcome any help. Sharing information about our project will certainly help, as will professional help such as legal services, civil engineering, economic advice or accounting. If you have any super skills (can you do accounting, understand building design, can you renovate bathrooms?), let us know. We can arrange some form of cooperation.
I have money – how can I support you financially?
Once we have a building, we will start a campaign for direct loans (see the topic “Finances”). If you have an amount of money that you want to invest somewhere and don’t want to leave it in the bank, you can lend us money to buy a house. The interest we offer on direct loans will be better than if you had the money at home under your mattress; it will also be better than what you’ll get from a savings account at the bank (and you will still be supporting a sympathetic project).
Why should I contribute to someone’s housing?
The Shared Houses Collective is not about getting a property that will serve an individual or a small group of people. The idea has a society-wide aim to make affordable housing available to the widest range of people.
In addition to housing, we plan to have a public space in the house. Its form will depend on the building we find, but we want to organize various events there such as lectures and film screenings. We will also provide space for collectives that are close to our worldviews. And by supporting us, you will support the idea of a network of house projects like ours. Once we have our house, we will be able to focus more on supporting collectives that would like to join the network.
How do you plan on financing your project?
We plan on paying for the house from three sources. The Umverteilen Foundation from Germany will lend us the largest share of the money. The rest we would like to raise through direct loans, i.e. loans made to us directly by individuals. We will offer them a better interest rate than if they entrust the money to a bank, and they can also feel good that they have supported a worthwhile project with their investment. The third pillar is the savings of members of our collective, which we also invest in the project through direct loans.
What will you use to repay the loans?
The main source of loan repayment in the house project will be rent paid by those living in the house.