Cooperative Housing, an Alternative to the Real Estate Market? Use Value and Exchange Value of Housing

Cahier de l'IDHEAP, no. 269/2012

227 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2013

See all articles by Melaine Laesslé

Melaine Laesslé

University of Lausanne - IDHEAP/SPAN

Date Written: June 2012


As the concentration of population in urban areas and the extension of those areas advances, this paper adopts a perspective that addresses urban development in relation to the development of capitalism. On the one hand, the literature on gentrification and the urbanization of capital, as part of a critical urban theory, allows addressing the current urban dynamics, highlighting the trend of appreciation of land and property values. On the other hand, the seminal work of Polanyi showed that the development of a market economy, which required that factors of production (land, labor, money) became independent (from previous social embedding) in the field of economic exchange, has always faced against social resistance aimed at maintaining (“re-embedding”) economic activity in social imperatives and uses. At the interplay of those analyses, housing is a key issue, particularly in terms of the realization of the value of property, which may take the form of use value or exchange value. This leads to raise the issue of accessibility conditions to housing in urban areas for a plurality of social groups. Indeed, some social actors mobilize themselves against the commodification of an essential good such as housing and seek to regain control over it in various ways. By analyzing six housing cooperatives in two Swiss cities, this work highlights the diversity of these forms of housing, their contribution to its use or exchange value, and their interweaving with local policy choices, while identifying the key elements of success of such projects as well as their limitations.

Note: Downloadable document is in French.

Keywords: Cooperative housing, gentrification, embeddedness, use value, exchange value

JEL Classification: P13, R31

Suggested Citation

Laesslé, Melaine, Cooperative Housing, an Alternative to the Real Estate Market? Use Value and Exchange Value of Housing (June 2012). Cahier de l'IDHEAP, no. 269/2012, Available at SSRN:

Melaine Laesslé (Contact Author)

University of Lausanne - IDHEAP/SPAN ( email )

Route de la Maladiere 21
Chavannes-Lausanne, 1022

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