Solar Community Housing Association (SCHA) is a Davis-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that has been providing environmentally conscious and affordable cooperative housing since 1979. SCHA owns & operates three cooperative houses: The Sunwise Co-op, the J Street Co-op, and Cornucopia Co-op. SCHA is also managing the Domes at UC Davis. Residents of the houses and the domes maintain their living spaces and serve on the organization’s board of directors.
On these pages you’ll find more about who we are, our involvement in the community, and resources for members and other housing cooperatives. Welcome!
“We encourage and create community and respect for environment through affordable, cooperative housing.”
Our Articles of Incorporation outline our founding principles. They clearly commit us to not only providing a service through low-income housing, but an educational mission promoting sustainable lifestyles and housing equity, and an outreach mission to support other similar community groups & non-profits.
Sustainable means many things. Some elements our organization exemplifies include energy-efficient building to minimize heating and cooling demands, growing our own produce, sharing resources (from housing appliances to garden equipment to labor), promoting sustainable transportation (bikes, in-fill housing), and sharing our knowledge and experiment with the community — through house tours, workshops, and volunteer engagement in our projects.
Cooperative is another word loaded with different meanings. Many co-ops (including the International Cooperative Alliance) identify with the seven Rochdale Principles, which define a member owned and operated organization. They have their roots in business cooperatives and do not cover all housing cooperatives that are not completely member owned. We are members of NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation), and are usually represented at its annual meetings. We support local cooperatives in a variety of ways as part of our mission. See “supporting local co-ops” under Outreach and Education.
Like many but not all housing cooperatives, we believe and practice a consensus decision making process. (Notably our founders did not specify a consensus structure). Consensus process models also vary, and are often addressed in our workshops.
We have fixed our definition of affordable in accordance with state tax requirements as making less than 80% of Yolo Median Income (look up limits here). To qualify, a potential resident must be a) a student at an institution of higher learning, or b) meet this affordability requirement on becoming a member. Residents that exceed this limit after becoming members are currently given a one-year grace period to find alternative housing. As part of our educational mission, membership is limited to a period of six years, creating perpetual turn-over whereby new members may experience affordable, cooperative living.
Students from the Davis Student Cooperative worked with Village Homes architects Mike and Judy Corbett to build the Sunwise Cooperative from 1978-1979. Founders Jennifer Fipps, David Sausjord, Glenn Schoenfeld, David Smart, Susan Beth Steckler, Barbara Wezelman, Jon Weinstein created the Solar Community Housing Association to own and manage the property, to be directed by a board of the residents.
In 1986, the Davis Art Center moved from its location on 234 J Street to Central Park and donated the old J Street building to SCHA. Taking a mortgage on Sunwise, SCHA refurbished the building to create a total of seven bedrooms and replace the roof through a volunteer effort, giving rise to the J Street cooperative.
In 1992, SCHA began to move and renovate several buildings to a lot in east Davis to create a “homestead” of houses. The houses featured a variety of experimental green building measures, from recycled materials to roof ponds, and originally opened to serve exclusively single parent families. The properties were originally occupied in 1996.
By 2006, it has become clear that Federal funding requirements, the needs of single-parents and other challenges made the Homestead Cooperative a social and financial liability to SCHA. The property was sold to the Community Housing Opportunities Corporation and Yolo Community Care Continuum to better serve the community.
In 2008, looks deeply into two expansion projects, exploring the possibilities of purchasing homes on the open market. The high cost of housing prohibits further expansion.
In the spring of 2009 the City of Davis issued a call for proposals to implement a low-income housing project on two vacant lots in Old East Davis. SCHA proposed a low-income cooperative, and was awarded the project on July 28th, 2009. The support of Old East Davis neighbors, other local organizations, and SCHA alumni was instrumental to the award.
January 2012 SCHA offered its first leases to full-time students to live at the Baggins End Domes in the Sustainable Research Area on the University of California, Davis campus. In 1972, ‘the Domes’ became the first student-built campus housing cooperative in the country. Remaining loyal to SCHA’s roots in the cooperative communities on campus, SCHA is partnering with students and the university to help maintain sustainable, cooperative housing opportunities at UCD for years to come.