Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives (LEHCs) are business corporations in which residents share ownership of a building. Co-op members work together to reach mutual goals based on democratic control and decision-making. Cooperative residents are typically guided in practices of living together in mutual ownership by the “Rochdale Principles,” developed by the International Cooperative Alliance.
LEHCs offer ownership opportunities to lower income households while limiting the return from resale that they can receive from the housing. It contrasts with market rate cooperatives, where memberships can be transferred at market value.
A LEHC is one approach to resident-controlled housing. Others include limited equity condominiums, mutual housing associations, co-housing and community land trusts (CLT). Some of these tools may be combined, such as the LEHC and the community land trust.
Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives:
Some of the best examples of LEHCs occur when apartment building tenants join together to purchase their buildings and share in permanently affordable and democratically-controlled home ownership. Renters in a class action lawsuit over the uninhabitable conditions of their Columbia Heights apartments in Washington D.C. reached a settlement to acquire ownership of one building for one dollar. They are forming a limited equity cooperative to formalize resident ownership and make longed-for improvements on the building.