By: Sarah Ditton — Development & Operations
“If everybody’s the same, you don’t really learn much, right? You aren’t necessarily challenged to grow and you’re also not really being inclusive. For me, inclusivity, equity, and social justice are crucial components of a cooperative community,” says Brian Locke, resident and board representative of Masala Co-op.
Co-ops Are More Diverse
Cooperatives have long been known to be safe havens for diversity. Jennifer Fluri, affordable housing researcher and Boulder Housing Coalition (BHC) Board Member, finds this to be true for BHC cooperatives, “the interesting thing is, I’ve studied all different kinds of affordable housing and the co-ops are more diverse than the general population,” she says.
Co-ops Promote Diversity
The BHC works to promote diversity, inclusivity, and social justice within our cooperatives and the greater community. We host an annual Social Justice and Cooperative Skills Training Series, we strictly follow Fair Housing Guidelines, we offer housing at prices far below market price, and we promote consensus decision-making in our cooperatives, committees, and board. We work to create a space where everyone can feel welcome and where all voices have power.
Cooperative housing generally creates space for diversity just by how cooperatives organize themselves. Co-ops
- Are where many LGBTQ people have been able to choose their family.
- Structure their decision-making so that every voice can be heard.
- Often offer rooms at an affordable price so that more people have access to them.
- Often have a communities willing to grow and really grapple with what it means to live with different people.
Co-oper Puts it Best
Emily Beaver, Chrysalis Alum and past Board Rep couldn’t have put it better:
“There are so many different types of people that move into co-ops. When we interviewed people to move in here, we asked them about their commitment to diversity and inclusion and how they’re going to foster an open, accepting environment. So you might have someone who comes from a really religious background or people of color live here.
People who live in Boulder and have lived in Boulder their whole lives, maybe haven’t been exposed to people of color or trans individuals or anyone that has like a different lifestyle from me or yourself. I think it’s really important to be open-minded to people who might be LGBTQ or be a person of color. And not only being able to live with it, but, ideally, I think that for someone who wants to live here, it shouldn’t just be for the cheap rent, although it’s a benefit, but it should be because you want to grow and challenge your assumptions and become a better person. “
The Challenge & Opportunity
And it can be a challenge. Being confronted with different ways of thinking, living, and being can be difficult. And this plays out every day at BHC cooperatives. Our cooperatives are where very different people have the opportunity to live together, eat together, and grow together. Which was something Jennifer, the researcher from earlier, found in her surveys. She says, “that was another good and bad for people living in co-ops, ‘Oh, I’ve learned so much about different cultures and the way people were raised and a lot about all kinds of different kinds of all kinds of diversity’, but also that was identified as a struggle for people, you know? So that’s interesting, but I think that’s good. Struggle is not a bad thing necessarily, if you learn from it.”
By providing a space for diversity within our community, the BHC is challenging people to grow. Allowing people to realize that there are many legitimate points of view. The more we can allow ourselves to embrace this, the better off we will all be.