Started in 1989 and now made up of 107 apartment buildings in Germany, a network of housing projects called Mietshäuser Syndikat, have locked themselves into a structure that allows almost complete autonomy for each housing project, with a couple of exceptions: the building can not be sold or condo-ized without the permission of a central organization.
This form of “some rights reserved” housing provides more security for the tenants from market-based rent fluctuations and evictions. It also provides a structure and advice network for those wanting to build tenant housing associations that will own and control their buildings over a long term.
In the United States, I have seen people drawn to the urban land trust structure for some of these advantages. This German model has the advantage of a fixed, and low, fee structure (2.5 cents per square foot per month) and a transparent and very limited set of rights reserved for the central entity. In this way, the central entity is deliberately limited to a small function to keep autonomy in the housing projects themselves.
I have been interested in restricting new debt being put a member building, but that is a step further than this model does. In the case of Foundation Housing, the benefits are allocated to non-profit use, either by accumulating assets or lower-than-market usage fees. So this German system is a step in these directions, and given their rapid uptake, a successful step.
I hope this ideas spreads!
Thank you to Ben Woosley for pointing this out to me.