For many living in urban environments, it may be difficult to imagine living in an densely-populated housing complex where the concept of community is highly-valued. Sure, residents may smile as they pass one another in the hallways and they may even hold the elevator door open when appropriate, but rarely do owners of housing developments encourage genuine communication and investment among their tenants.
Dianna Tyson is aiming to change this with the Franklin Housing Cooperative located in the Seward neighborhood.
The Franklin Housing Cooperative is part of the Riverton Community Housing initiative that was started over 30 years ago. In 1972, Riverton constructed the Chateau in Dinkytown and since that time, the cooperative housing project has expanded to locations near the University of Minnesota. To better accommodate to the students of Augsburg College, the Franklin Housing Cooperative was purchased as it was near a college campus, several lines of public transportation, as well as a variety of entertainment venues. However, this housing complex is unlike a traditional apartment.
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“Basically, the residents in our building have a say in what happens,” Tyson explained. “If you become a tenant in the co-op, you get to be involved with the decision-making process.”
Residents of the Franklin Housing Cooperative are members of a self-run, volunteer-based collective. Through the democratic election of a board of directors, tenants of the co-op unite to fulfill the common economic, social and cultural needs of the community. This board of directors is responsible for facilitating monthly meetings and approving the annual budget and by-laws of the co-op; other members participate in committees and events related to the development and running of the co-op. The co-op also hires staff members who assist in the building’s routine business; that’s where Tyson comes in.
Tyson explained that the significant feature of the Franklin Housing Cooperative is that members take an active role in their housing. Board members and volunteers are not required to have professional training or formal education; they simply help the community and cultivate relationships throughout their volunteer work.
“I would rather live in a co-op than in a regular apartment building,” Tyson added. “If you live in a regular apartment building, you just pay your rent money and do what they say. If you live in a co-op, you can make some decisions about what happens with your rent money.”
According to Tyson, residents of the co-op are very comfortable with their community and most of their business comes through referrals from previous tenants. In her eight years as the building’s manager, Tyson has seen the Franklin Housing Cooperative develop into a more livable, community-centered space. In addition to redeveloping an underused swimming pool into a community garden, Tyson reported that several remodeling projects have been undertaken to improve the living space.
“We’ve come a long way,” Tyson said.
Tyson has been involved with housing for 21 years. Since accepting her position with the Franklin Housing Cooperative eight years ago, Tyson explained that she has found her work to be fulfilling and challenging. In working with such a diverse community, she said that it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is accommodated to their specific needs. But, as Tyson added, “Anybody who comes into our building, we treat them the same.”
If you are interested in receiving more in information about the Cooperative, visit http://www.riverton.org/franklin.php for layout plans, contact information, and pricing details.