Article Title

Filling a House with Meaning: The Construction of a Chicago Housing Cooperative

Graduation Year



A housing cooperative is a non-profit form of housing tenure that has been a feature of American university campuses since the 1930s. Living in a co-op allows members the benefits of low rent, a close-knit social group, and democratic control of their living space. Unlike communes, however, members do not typically share income or unite around a particular ideology. This paper is the result of ethnographic research of one such house, Haymarket House of Qumbya Housing Cooperative in Hyde Park, Chicago. In 1988 the founders of Haymarket established its methods of structuring everyday life on principles of socialism, egalitarianism, and environmentalism. Since then, as residents have come and gone, the community has shifted away from its politically-charged origins, though members are still conscious of the political implications of their everyday life. This article seeks to understand the character of people’s lived experience with co-op living and the relationships of the people of Haymarket to the ideologies “built in” to their everyday practices. Though ethnographic research revealed that members differ in their attitudes about the concepts of utopia and intentional community, they share a desire to live differently than their neighbors, and Haymarket allows them a space to imagine alternatives.