The Riverwest Investment Cooperative started in 2003 with the founding principle of community-directed investment. We’ve had up and downs since then—most notably the real estate market crash—but our goals remain the same:
- To preserve and create affordable housing in Riverwest and Harambee in a way that increases neighborhood owner-occupant, economic stability and security.
- To stimulate community-directed economic development that addresses neighborhood needs.
- To provide education on issues related to community investment, home ownership and cooperatives.
To date, our main activity has been the purchase and renovation of affordable housing, mainly using the sweat equity of our members and investors. When the real estate market crashed in 2008, we were left with two properties we had fixed up but could not sell: an 8 unit apartment building on 1st Street and a small house on Weil St. The board was left with the job of acting as property managers, and we could not make any additional investments, or give our members and investors to get involved. Efforts to turn the 1st Street building into a housing cooperative never got off the ground, and with the rebound in real-estate prices, we made the decision to sell the apartment building for a very modest profit.
Though we expect to be able to sell the Weil Street property in about a year, most of our capital is still tied up there, meaning we can not legally distribute dividends to our members or refund investments. However, the sale of the apartment building does leave us with some liquidity. So after several years of dormancy, we’re finally at a point to re-start the discussion about where we go from here.
Some of the options we have right now include
- Invest secondary capital in the Riverwest-Harambee Credit Union.
- Lend to local start-up businesses through a Barn Raising partnership we’ve developed with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC).
- Raise money so that we can continue investing in and fixing up properties as we have been doing.
- Transform into a non-profit similar to the Madison Area Community Land Trust, holds land separate from the ownership of homes on that land, making them more affordable.
- Shut down and return member investments after selling the Weil Street house.
Co-op Fest this October will coincide with our annual member meeting, giving us the perfect opportunity to meet with our members, investors and neighbors to discuss these ideas and others. If you’d like to be involved, stay connected or email us.