From the editorial: “The advancement of community-led housing initiatives requires enabling institutional and financial conditions. In a Conversation led by RHJ editorial collective members Camila Cociña and Mara Ferreri with Csaba Jelineka and Zsuzsanna Pósfai, two members of the MOBA collective network discuss pioneering housing cooperatives in Central and South-Eastern Europe, we explore the social demand and financing challenges of affordable rental and cooperative housing in the region. The conversation reflects on a recent large- scale study developed by MOBA looking at how catalytic capital investment can enable the provision of affordable rental and cooperative housing in this particular region. The conversation explores the need and desire to broaden alternative housing models, the financial products that may enable an emerging affordable rental and cooperative housing sector, the history and future plans of MOBA and the importance of international solidarity and networks.”
When: 7and 8 December 2023. Where: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Thaer Institute. Organisers: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, IWO Housing Initiative Eastern Europe, MOBA Housing SCE, LiM Living in Metropolises SCE, University of Jena
Housing markets in Central and (South) Eastern Europe (CEE) are characterised by an exceptionally high proportion of homeownership, low renovation rates, and a shortage of affordable rental and social housing. Younger generations suffer most from these tight housing market conditions. In response, new cooperative housing initiatives have been emerging over the past 15 years. One transnational example is MOBA Housing SCE, a young network of cooperative pioneers from Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia. The objective of MOBA SCE is to join forces to implement new housing cooperatives and to develop transnational financing instruments for new cooperative housing providers in CEE. LiM Living in Metropolises SCE is a second recently founded European housing cooperative that aims to strengthen the idea and practice of the cooperative legal form, which is part of UNESCO’s intangible world heritage, and to implement it with forward-looking projects. For almost 150 years, housing cooperatives have stood for self-help, self-determination and self-responsibility and have become pioneers in housing reform.
The main objective of this workshop is to kick off new networks and collaborations to support the institutional build-up of MOBA SCE and LiM SCE, as well as other emerging housing cooperatives in CEE. To do so, the event will give insights on current tendencies of housing cooperatives. Together with representatives of housing cooperatives, foundations, NGOs, practitioners related to housing and real estate, municipalities, ministries, and EU entities, among others, we will identify financing models and partnerships to support young housing cooperatives in the region. In particular, we will build on cooperation experiences between Germany and CEE, select good practices and funding programme approaches at European level regarding financing housing in CEE and discuss cooperation opportunities and international (financing) strategies. In the long run, we would wish to sensitise for a European idea of Housing Cooperatives.
MORNING PROGRAM: Housing initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe and experiences from German speaking countries to support emerging housing cooperatives
Session 1: Housing challenges in Central and Eastern Europe, and cooperative housing initiatives in this context (presentations and discussion). With: Dr. Corinna Hölzl (HU Berlin) and Max Hellriegel (Universität Jena), Iva Marčetić (Universität Kassel), Knut Hoeller (IWO e.V), Dirk Lönnecker (LiM – Living in Metropolis SCE), Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen (MOBA Housing SCE).
Session 2: International cooperation for overcoming financial bottlenecks of housing cooperatives in CEE (moderation: Zsuzsanna Pósfai, Bea Varnai, both MOBA SCE).
Roundtable conversation 1: Existing experiences. With: Helmut Geißler and Claudia Spiller (Stiftung Umverteilen), Elena Milanovska (Habitat for Humanity International), Alice Pittini (Housing Europe), Giorgos Melissourgos (Heinrich-Böll Foundation).
Roundtable conversation 2: Future plans and ideas. With: Goran Jeras (Cooperative for Ethical Financing, ECHOES), Rolf Novy-Huy (Ko-Operativ eG NRW, formerly Foundation Trias), Peter Kämmerling (Mietshäuser Syndikat /Commoning Spaces Network).
AFTERNOON PROGRAM: The various elements of a mature and enabling ecosystem for housing cooperatives
Session 3: The cooperative housing landscape in Germany – diversity, challenges and achievements (moderation: Corinna Hölzl, HU Berlin). With: Guido Schwarzendahl (Bauverein Halle & Leuna eG and Cooperative Housing International, CHI), Caroline Rosenthal (Forum for Cooperatives Berlin and Mietshäuser Syndikat), Elke Rauth (Bikes and Rails Vienna/habiTAT Austria), Jens-Uwe Köhler (Studentendorf Schlachtensee and Bündnis Junge Genossenschaften Berlin)
Session 4: The role of public actors in promoting cooperative housing development (moderation: Caroline Rosenthal, Forum for Cooperatives, Berlin). With: Nicola Müller (Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Construction) tbc, Heike Skok (City of Munich / Mitbauzentrale), Melanie Kloth (NRW.Bank Wohnraumförderung), Arnt v. Bodelschwingh (RegioKontext GmbH).
Session 5:Supporting cooperative development – through financing and cooperative infrastructure (moderation: Ana Džokić, MOBA SCE). With (online): Ulrich Kriese (Edith Maryon Foundation), Antonia Proka (Rescoop.eu), Ela Kagel (Platform cooperatives Germany), tbc. In person: Michael LaFond (id22).
Friday, 8 December 2023
Session 6: Scaling up LiM, MOBA and other new housing cooperatives in CEE (moderation: MOBA SCE representatives). World Café: Based on discussions and findings from Workshop Day 1. This key session will focus on: how to bring together common goals and ambitions in the next three years and direct and indirect ways of supporting new housing coops in CEE.
Session 7: Ukraine: What role could Housing Cooperatives play for Recovery (hybrid). With: Knut Höller (IWO), FLÜWO Bauen Wohnen eG, tbc, Serhii Komnatnyj (UNECE consultant, Chairman of the State fund for Youth housing).
MOBA and partnering organisations organised the first presentation of the report “Catalytic capital investment as an enabler of affordable rental and cooperative housing in Central and South-Eastern Europe” on the 29th of March 2023 at 15.00 CET, online.
You can view recording of the entire session (attended by 90 partcipants) here:
This Research Report looks at the potential of catalytic capital investments in the housing sector of Central and South-Eastern Europe (CSEE), and more specifically in eight countries of this region – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia. The countries were selected to reflect diversity in terms of EU membership, size and economic development. The report brings much-needed input for cooperative housing developments in the CSEE region. Furthermore, it provides key information for the future development of MOBA Housing SCE and its financial mechanism MOBA Accelerator.
MOBA participated in the third International Social Housing Festival in Helsinki (June 14-17, 2022). The festival highlighted the role of social, public and co-operative housing in achieving socially and ecologically sustainable living in our cities now and in the future.
Alongside its partners of the CoHabitat Network, MOBA contributed to the European Collaborative Housing Day that took place on June 15, and convened a round table discussion to address the challenges of accessing affordable finance for cooperative housing projects in Central and Southeastern Europe. The roundtable featured participants from the MOBA network, larger housing co-operatives from Germany and the UK, the Slovenian Housing Fund. It will reflected on possible pathways to overcome the housing finance challenge, ranging from community-based finance; public policies at the municipal and national levels; and institutional support at the European level.
Short recap of the Collaborative Hosuing Day can be found here:
After several years of preparations, the collective Sdílené domy (Shared Houses) bought its first housing project in Prague, Czech Republic. As the name of the project První vlaštovka (First Swallow) says, they hope it will be the first piece of a broader network of housing projects in the Czech Republic, similar to Mietshäuser Syndikat in Germany or HabiTAT in Austria. Furthermore, they hope to set a working example that could help not just other projects in the Czech Republic but also other countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe through the MOBA Housing network.
Here Sdílené domy report on the last months of their endeavour.
Six months of struggle with bureaucracy
At the beginning of the last year, we overcame our last big obstacle before searching for a concrete house – finding the main source of financing. After more than a year of unsuccessfully convincing one of the local banks to give us a loan to purchase the first house, we managed to negotiate and obtain financing from a German foundation Stiftung Umverteilen. At that point, we understood the Prague property market situation had significantly changed, with many people, due to the Covid-19, investing money with the expectation of a supposedly coming economic crisis. Therefore, in 2021, we only found a few properties in Prague that would suit our needs and the rapidly rising prices. Ultimately, in October, we decided to purchase a former hotel in Prague 6 district, where we could all fit and still have a space left to create an open political space for discussions, lectures, concerts, and other social and political activities.
Then, the process continued for the next several months with signing the purchase contract just before Christmas. Since we had to deal with an international bureaucracy connected with financing a property in the Czech Republic by a foreign financial institution, the final handover of the house could not take place until the 22nd of March 2022.
Since we have the house… When we finally got the keys, an even more giant pile of bureaucracy appeared before us with all the energy, insurance, and other contracts to be signed. But there were also more pleasant things to come. When trying to find out more about the house we just bought, we came across old photos but also a piece of surprising information – the former hotel served for a period as a shelter for German anti-fascists fleeing Nazi Germany (more info here). With the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we decided to continue this tradition by offering our house as a shelter to people fleeing the war.
After overtaking the house, we slowly started the reconstruction. We used the first few weekends to clear out the garbage and other unusable stuff from the cellars and make more minor repairs to the currently unused rooms and flats.
Before we move in Our next most significant challenge is reconstructing the house to a shape that would suit the needs of current cooperative members. At this point, we understood how important it is to work with architects, like our friends from Second Nature, that understand the logic and the basic mechanisms of the collective housing models. Apart from individual flats housing 15-18 people, we plan to have a semi-public shared “living room” with a guest room, several offices for NGOs and an open political space in the basement. The whole reconstruction will require further funds. Therefore, we are more than happy to get financial support through the MOBA Housing Fund – as the first project within the MOBA network. Furthermore, we are planning campaigns for direct loans and other forms of financial support in the Czech Republic and Germany.
By Ana Džokić and Rok Ramšak, following the piloting year of the MOBA-World Habitat Co-operative Housing Development Grant. Ana and Rok are from emerging housing initiatives in Belgrade and Ljubljana – part of MOBA Housing SCE (MOBA) – a network of pioneering co-operative housing projects from Central and South-Eastern Europe. Together, they developed a shared model for affordable, sustainable and non-speculative housing – along with the tools to turn this ambition into a reality.
Due to the widespread lack of affordable and secure housing in the Central and South-Eastern European region, MOBA Housing SCE emerged in 2017 to foster collaboration around strategies for cooperative housing development.
World Habitat has partnered with MOBA from the start as part of their Global Community-led Housing programme, including in the joint development of the MOBA-World Habitat Co-operative Housing Development Grant. This initiative specifically focused on advancing the housing co-operative approach in this region of Europe. In its first pilot, during 2020-2021, the £15000 Grant supported five proposed local projects that used a series of very different approaches to work towards community-led and affordable housing development. Let’s see how that worked out in five different contexts.
Belgrade, Serbia – Pametnija Zgrada Cooperative
Under Serbian legislation, housing co-operatives cannot lease privately owned land, and public land is currently not available for citizens-led initiatives. Therefore, for Pametnija Zgrada Cooperative, land acquisition became a prerequisite to make a partial equity rental co-operative housing model feasible in the local context. The grant enabled the shortlisting of possible locations that fit the criteria, as well as a financing plan for the land purchase. The land search brought crucial hands-on insights on how to undertake the search and evaluation process, how to establish what constitutes an adequate location, and what’s available and its pricing in the current market. As a result, they have managed to identify several potential plots and have pre-booked one specific site for a pilot project.
Budapest, Hungary – Rákóczi Collective
Despite Hungary’s lack of legal, institutional, and financial infrastructures for rental housing co-operatives, members of Rákóczi Collective already managed to purchase the first house for this purpose in 2018. In 2021, the grant helped create two legal entities: an umbrella organisation for rental housing co-operatives (which also has a development role for new housing projects) and an association to recruit new members into the co-operative housing movement, with particular focus on the next upcoming co-operative house. Forty new potential members have been recruited, helping refine the financial model of the housing co-operative.
Ljubljana, Slovenia – Zadrugator Cooperative
With the change in the political landscape in Slovenia, the pilot housing co-operative project had come to a stalemate as the newly appointed government scrapped the new housing law required for housing co-operatives to be viable. Zadrugator Cooperative responded by using the grant to put a significant effort into promoting and advocating co-operative housing on national and local levels through an awareness and advocacy campaign. As a culmination of their activities, they have installed a Monument to the Housing Crisis in co-operation with an artistic collective “m2” in the centre of Ljubljana and managed to include housing co-operatives in an intervention law on public housing provision put forward to the National Assembly.
Prague, Czechia – První Vlaštovka Cooperative
První Vlaštovka used the grant to engage external experts to help develop a detailed professional business plan to approach private financial institutions to finance the purchase and renovation of the property. The business plan is adaptable and should serve as a basis for other similar groups to use within Czechia, under the umbrella initiative Sdílené Domy. Thanks to securing commitment for co-financing, they went on to successfully purchase the first property that will be transformed into a housing co-operative and a social centre based on the co-operative rental model.
Zagreb, Croatia – Zadruga Otvorena Arhitektura/ZOA
Currently, no laws and financial instruments support the establishment of housing co-operatives in Croatia. To bridge the gap, Zadruga Otvorena Arhitektura/ZOA decided to use the grant to involve legal, real estate and construction experts in creating a step-by-step strategy for local governments to kick-start the development of a co-operative housing model. To get a step closer to proposing the model to the city of Zagreb, ZOA mapped out city-owned plots of land suitable for the construction of co-operative housing and developed three conceptual architectural projects and related financial models.
As well as supporting local projects, the grant has increased the network’s capacity to support its members. In fact, funding was provided from World Habitat to MOBA, who created a collaborative grant-making system for its membership to channel tailored financial support for local projects. This came with a package of support with discussions on how to improve proposed projects, channels for feedback and peer-to-peer exchange on progress and achievements. In the words of Rok Ramšak from Zadrugator: ‘Let me tell you what I love about MOBA’s grant system: the groups don’t compete for funding, they help each other improve and deliver each project’.
Given the success of these first experiences, a second round of the MOBA-World Habitat Co-operative Housing Development Grant was launched in late 2021 with approximately £20000 to advance on aspects such as membership engagement and training, researching technological and sustainable solutions, and policy development. The grant management system will also be improved with the aim to grow and support more pioneering community-led housing initiatives in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe – where sustainable and affordable solutions are greatly needed.
To hear more about how you can connect with or support MOBA Housing SCE, please email: email@example.com
MOBA is glad to announce that it is part of a consortium of organisations that looks at the potential of catalytic capital (investment capital that is patient, risk-tolerant, and rather flexible) to kick-start affordable housing.
At focus is the housing sector in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (ESEE), where for many years, housing has become increasingly unaffordable to a significant part of the population. In parallel, there is an increasing need for investment in sustainable housing solutions to address the climate crisis. Due to a lack of systematic public engagement in ESEE, the development of innovative housing solutions strongly relies on independent housing organisations. These organisations face important difficulties in accessing finance, mainly due to the risk-aversion of existing housing finance institutions in the region.
The Catalytic Capital Consortium’s (C3) Grantmaking program – housed at and administered the New Venture Fund (NVF) now has provided the support to take a deeper look into the potential of catalytic investments in this field. In total, C3 has awarded 14 research proposals from universities, nonprofits and collaborations spanning seven countries. The aim of C3 is thus to enable social and environmental progress that would not otherwise be possible.
The research MOBA now participates in looks at both EU and non-EU countries – 8 countries altogether, with 4 selected as core research countries, including Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, and Slovenia. Access to innovative forms of housing finance is quasi nonexistent in all target countries. We firmly believe that if patient or catalytic capital were to systematically endow the housing sector of the region, then this would allow new, innovative housing providers to consolidate their activities, meaning that the sector of permanently affordable housing – ranging from limited equity cooperative housing to more conventional forms of rental housing – can finally come to life and expand in this part of Europe. This, in turn, would mean access to housing for social groups currently excluded from the housing market. In the research we will uncover the characteristics of both the demand-side and the supply-side of this sector and will also identify the bottlenecks that need to be overcome for the two sides to meet.
With the support of World Habitat, MOBA successfully developed and launched the MWH Grant in 2021. By providing access to non-refundable funding, the Grant supports advancing the novel housing cooperative approach in Central and South-Eastern Europe.
The 2022 Call provides 20.000 EUR to support a maximum of five projects by MOBA full members. Each organisation may apply for funding within the scope of 2.000 to 4.000 EUR. Exceptionally, applicants may apply for a higher funding volume (up to 8.000 EUR) if they can clearly show a direct and significant impact on the project outputs.
The MWH Grant aims to support and empower pioneering cooperative housing initiatives by improving access to:
Providing education and know-how around cooperative housing to project leaders, future residents or other relevant stakeholders (funders, local partners, etc.) to ensure the advancement of a cooperative housing project
Developing tools that enable the establishment or furthering of cooperative housing
Strengthening international cooperation and solidarity to build up the knowledge for country projects
Securing and or purchasing a piece of land (or working towards this)
Securing a partnership that can enable access to land or funding
Developing and implementing financial strategies
Securing a partnership that can enable access to real estate or financing
4. Policy and Legal matters
Developing policy or legal processes relating to cooperative housing
Advocating and securing the adoption of policy or legal processes relating to cooperative housing
5. Technical and Environmental matters
Advancing on design and technical features for housing development
Developing sustainable low-carbon housing development solutions
The first Call for Loan Requests of the MOBA Housing Development Fund
MOBA Housing SCE is calling its full member organisations to submit proposals for projects to be financed with the support of its MOBA Housing Development Fund.
The link to the Call for Loan Requests form can be found here. Proposals will be received until June 20, 2021, and reviewed by the Fund Committee. Decisions about the attribution of funds will be taken by June 30 and loans will be issued in July. A further Call for Loan Requests may be issued later in the year.
What is the MOBA Housing Development Fund?
The MOBA Housing Development Fund is being set up as part of the MOBA Housing SCE and thanks to a seed capital of 21,600 EUR provided by the cooperative ABZ in Zurich. Currently, in its pilot stage, it is intended to grow into the financial vehicle of MOBA, supporting the development of cooperative housing projects federated under MOBA.
Who is the Fund Committee?
The Fund Committee is composed of 1 representative of each MOBA (full) member – plus 1 representative of an associate member nominated to the Fund Committee as a facilitator (with no right to vote). The member(s) who submit an application cannot vote on their own proposal.
The Fund Committee is being constituted in parallel to the present Call for Loan Requests and approved by MOBA Housing SCE’s General Assembly (in mid-June 2021).
The Fund Committee is responsible for issuing the Call for Loan Requests (except for this first Call which is issued by the working group) and responsible for taking decisions on loan allocation and repayment conditions.
How does it work?
The present Call for Projects is a “test run” for the MOBA Housing Development Fund. In 2021, the MOBA Housing Development Fund will issue at least one loan to MOBA members with the aim of attributing the total amount of 18,000 EUR to its members in the course of 2021.
Types of loans, among others:
Kick-start loan/door-opener for other financiers
Land or house acquisition The loan cannot be used to pay consultants, studies or human resources.
To request a loan, one must be a full member of MOBA Housing SCE.
The repayment capacity/financial solidity/risk will be assessed on the basis of the financial plan of the project.
Priority will be given to projects with urgent financial needs and that have a high impact on the project lifecycle. The definite criteria will be discussed and established by the Fund Committee.
The loans should have a duration of a maximum of 18 months
The maximum amount you can request in this round is 18,000 euros. The Fund Committee may suggest reviewing the loan duration and amount.
The loan is issued in euros; transfer costs and the currency exchange risk will be covered by the Fund’s reserve. To cover for the risk, the MOBA Housing Development Fund will keep a reserve of an additional 20% (3,600 EUR).
The suggested repayment schedule is every 6 months via bank transfer, but members can propose a repayment schedule that better fits their project.
The yearly (nominal) interest rate is 2.5% (interest on a 1,000 EUR loan = 25 euros per year).
A loan contract will be signed between MOBA Housing SCE and the MOBA member (applicant), in line with Croatian legislation.
One of the main obstacles facing community-led cooperative housing in Hungary, and more broadly in Central and Southeastern Europe (CSEE), is the difficulty to access affordable housing finance. In search of quick and high returns, investment in the CSEE region flows almost uniquely into market-based models of housing. These models promote home-ownership and are not accessible to many households without significant capital to buy an apartment or equity to acquire a mortgage.
In 2017 pioneering housing cooperatives from CSEE joined forces and founded the MOBA Housing Network (since 2020 European Cooperative Society, SCE). One of the main aims of MOBA is to build an infrastructure for accessing large-scale investment for the cooperative housing sector. Such investments could kick-start community-led housing projects, and lead to more affordable housing.
This webinar held on 10 March 2021, presented the work of the MOBA Housing SCE and the cooperative housing projects of MOBA members from Belgrade, Budapest, Ljubljana, Prague and Zagreb.
It addressed the following questions: What is the state of cooperative housing in each of the member countries? What are the main obstacles to financing cooperative housing in CSEE? What kind of bottom-up financial solutions is MOBA developing to address the situation?
Particpants: Zsuzsi Pósfai (Rákóczi Collective, Budapest), Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen (Ko gradi grad/Pametnija Zgrada, Belgrade), Rok Ramšak (Zadrugator, Ljubljana), Darovan Tušek (Zadruga Otvorena Arhitektura, Zagreb), Adéla Zicháčková (Sdílené domy, Prague). Moderator: Natasa Szabó (Solidarity Economy Center, Budapest).