After gathering with like-minded folks and agreeing on a common goal for cooperative housing, what does it take to set up a corporation for a co-op?
Figure out the structure of the corporation first. Consulting an attorney and an accountant can give you a picture of the best way to set up the corporation for your cooperative. Tap additional resources, such as the Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC), as needed. A resource list is provided on Fort Wayne’s Community Development website.
Deb Trocha of the Indiana Cooperative Development Center is open to talking with Hoosiers who are interested in setting up a cooperative. She sees significant opportunities for areas like Fort Wayne to improve housing market options for residents.
In the startup phase, get ready to brainstorm the cooperative’s Business Plan. Begin with an outline or list of ideas, people, and their responsibilities. Once the necessary information is compiled, prepare to refine your Business Plan. The Northeast ISBDC provides guidance on how to structure an effective Business Plan.
Next, register the corporation with the Indiana Secretary of State. This is required for business entities such as corporations and non-profit organizations and can be done through their online service.
With all this groundwork laid, your business is ready for the next phase: financing. According to A Sound and Proven Path Towards Launching Your Own Small Business, presented by the Indiana Small Business Development Center, those who start any business are expected to invest some of their own assets into it. That’s the same for a cooperative; the group of people who formed the corporation would also be responsible for investing in their share of the collective asset, or for obtaining a loan for that purpose. For example, if a four-person cooperative purchased a small apartment building with four units, each would own one share, equivalent to one apartment, within the cooperative.
Housing cooperatives typically need investments in the form of grants and loans. After getting through the startup phase, gather your notes, consult an expert, and create a business plan document that starts with an executive summary and provides the information necessary to move your enterprise forward. A polished business plan is required when applying for a grant and a loan from a bank or private lender.
If financing becomes a challenge, contact the Community Development Corporation of Northeast Indiana (CDC). Your business may qualify for one of their various loan programs.
Once funding is secured and you know what type of property or properties you’d like to build, renovate, or adapt, consult a real estate professional, accountant, and attorney while you consider different options and establish the physical structure for the cooperative.
After the structure is ready to be occupied, the top priority is managing its various needs through democratic involvement of the member-owners, with input from experts, with the goal of establishing an affordable, safe, and enduring cooperative corporation.
Gabi Lorino is a writer, editor, and organizer of people and words currently based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her feature articles and short stories have been published in newspapers, newsletters, magazines, websites, and books. She has self-published one book, A Magical Time Called Later, in addition to a journal series, and has edited short story anthologies.