07 / 1993
Coop Casa was founded in Verona in August 1991. It is an initiative of a group of citizens, social workers, the local Study and Documentation Centre on Immigration and Mag Verona. It wants to tackle a fundamental problem for immigrant people: finding decent housing at the correct price. The problem of housing is particularly relevant to immigrant communities in Italy. They are often exploited and discriminated against, having to pay excessively high rents for very low quality living conditions. The few local town council initiatives on this issue have been criticized as having racist motivations. This kind of initiative has therefore a very relevant social impact.
The cooperative icludes both Italians and immigrants (they have been allowed to be part of cooperatives in Italy since 1990). They have a group of experts who offer a consultancy service for housing problems. The cooperative finances the buying of houses on the base of the savings of its members. Interest rates vary and are agreed individually with each member. The funds are used to buy flats to be hired and gradually aquired by immigrant members of the cooperative. The terms of hiring and buying the flats are the same of public housing in Italy. In order to buy a flat each person must repay to Coop Casa a ten year credit which is initially used to buy the house along with a starting investment. Usually flats are some 10 - 20 years old, in good condition and cost around 1.000.000 lire (around 670 US $)per square metre. On average they are 35 square meters per person.
Coop Casa is also promoting a culture of understanding around this initiative with information activities aimed at involving more members in the cooperative (and therefore increasing savings)and at a general awareness raising on the need of a culture of tolerance and solidarity.
It is difficult to assess how effective Coop Casa has been since its activities started only recently. It is interesting to point that many other groups in Veneto and in other parts of Italy look at this experience as a model in order to solve immigrants housing problems and to promote a culture of tolerance.
Translated and adapted by Alessio Surian
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