As the city of Madison rewrites its zoning codes, housing cooperatives are seeking better recognition and an easier time setting up.
Current zoning regulations prohibit more than five unrelated people from living together in a single dwelling unit. Co-ops have been able to skirt this requirement in places where they've been grandfathered in or are considered more like condos or boardinghouses, says David Sparer, an attorney representing Madison Community Cooperative, which has 11 housing cooperatives.
Sparer says housing co-ops should be encouraged because they provide affordable housing (on average, it costs $300 to $400 a month to live in one). "They depend upon people working with each other and sharing skills and being able to depend on each other. It's very easy for them to be good neighbors."
Co-ops would like, for instance, to take an old house that has been divided up into several apartments, turn it into one big unit, but keep its multi-unit occupancy level.
Matt Tucker, city zoning administrator, says the changes being considered would not permit co-ops in low-density neighborhoods composed of single-family homes because they would clash with those neighborhood identities. "You're going to have more cars, more bicycles, more garbage cans - you're going to have more activity," he says. "Co-ops are no different in that case from a rental property."
But, he adds, co-ops are "really not interested in going into those areas anyway."