Housing Cooperatives Today?

We consider that a situation in which for a large majority of people only ways to get to an apartment by inheritance or risky loan – is unsustainable. Low income, high real estate prices, over 150,000 people in Belgrade only without resolved housing situation. This clearly indicates that the housing problem is immense, that neither institutions nor the market are solving it for us – and that there is a need for housing alternatives.

Thus, we decided to take action and start joining forces through a new kind of housing cooperatives. Based on the “smarter building” approach, a flagship building is being prepared to prove the concept.

How does it work?

The Pametnija Zgrada (Smarter Building) model puts affordability of housing first while taking away the pressure from individuals in resolving their housing condition. It is centred around a cooperative of inhabitants that collectively develops, builds, finances, maintains and operates a multi-apartment building. Because it manages this entire life-cycle (without the aim to gain profit), the resulting apartments are much more affordable for the residents.

The cooperative owns the real-estate as well as takes on the necessary loans for its construction. Participating households or individuals (the members of the cooperative) thus collectively own their building. And keep it there, because individual members or households cannot speculate with their apartment – in that way it is not just a safe and affordable option for the first generation, but for all the following generations of its inhabitants to come.

As a resident of such a building, you pay an entry deposit before moving in, and then monthly payments that contribute to both the loan repayment and running costs (including utilities such as water and electricity). These contributions are set in advance so you will always know what to expect.

Aiming at 2/3 of the market average: lower costs ensure a safe and affordable future.

In short: what makes this approach smarter?

  • Collective ownership: the cooperative constructs the building and keeps it in its ownership
  • Credit is assumed by the cooperative, taking (part of) vulnerability away from individuals
  • Cooperative membership gives access to stable long term housing costs
  • Members contribute financially (on a monthly basis) and through economic participation
  • Affordable monthly costs ensure that all units are sustainably affordable for their inhabitants
  • Common spaces that contribute to the quality of life
  • Upon leaving the apartment and the cooperative, the members are refunded the deposit and their monthly contributions in the amount of the loan principal

Smarter Building approach builds on long-standing but neglected traditions of housing cooperatives and self-building in Serbia. And expands them with the experience of other cooperative housing developments developed in the last 20 year. So, while it is new to Serbia and South-Eastern Europe, it has been already tested elsewhere. 

For whom is it?

It is for a wide range of people who currently cannot afford to buy an apartment (and thus not be bank customers), but would join in a more affordable approach to it. In Belgrade alone, this group of “blocked” citizens potentially includes well over 50,000 households. Pametnija Zgrada opens a new option for a substantial part of this group. For example young people who want to become independent, people without a permanent job, people with average or lower income, as well as those who are looking for a community in which they could live differently.

Start pilot project

Pametnija Zgrada is preparing for the launch of the first building: a 20-apartment flagship development:

  • Affordable and economically sustainable housing
  • For people with average and lower incomes
  • Joint (co-operative) ownership of the building
  • Non-profit, not speculative principles
  • High energy performance

It is envisioned as a 4-storey building with a total apartment floor area of 1.000m2 net, located in Belgrade’s 3rd construction zone. It incorporates a range of apartments for different living requirements, including single users, families and cohousing arrangements. The base housing unit is a 40m2 studio apartment for up to two people (living/sleeping room, dining area, kitchen, bathroom), while the largest apartment would be organised as a co-housing (120m2).

An essential feature of Pametnija Zgrada is over 10% of shared resident facilities (130m2), that gives additional qualities to life in the buildings, while also providing opportunities for additional income generation for the cooperative (e.g. venue hire).
It will be constructed according to the Passive House energy efficiency standard, cutting utility costs by 40%.

The co-operative invests in the construction of the building with 20% equity (partly from member participation, partly from donations), while remaining funds are obtained via a collective loan.


Almost all of us are struggling with housing problems. Rather than solve these problems on our own, we plan to work together to share our resources and spread our risks. If you want to contribute to resolving this significant issue – whether by participating in the pilot project, providing funding or other forms of partnership – we want to hear from you.

You can email us at info@kogradigrad.org