Vermont Real Estate Cooperative
a cooperative business formed by Vermont residents to own and run commercial and residential property
We are a member-owned and -controlled business that offers:
For our community: Sustainable local ownership of real estate that builds community wealth.
For tenants: Reasonable, stable rents and a way to share in any surplus.
For member-owners: A values-based investment, a vote in key decisions, and the opportunity to help shape the direction of the business.
A way to support the solidarity economy: part of our mission is to rent to co-ops, collectives, and similar social enterprises.
VREC aims to own properties as a way to strengthen our local economy, especially by supporting cooperatives, including housing co-ops and worker-owned businesses. We also aim to provide a reliable return on our members’ investments, including the option for tenants to join and receive a ‘patronage refund’ in years of surplus.
VREC adheres to the 7 cooperative principles,
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Democratic Member Control
3. Member Economic Participation
4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Education, Training and Information
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
7. Concern for Community
We go into more detail about these values in our bylaws (pdf).
VREC began organizing in 2019, incorporated at the start of 2020, and is now under a purchase and sale agreement to buy our first property, a commercial space with a stable tenant. For more information on this property please see the informational document (pdf).
We already have 27 members who have pledged $71,000. We are seeking new members who can contribute towards $20,000 of additional investment, with a stretch goal of $55,000 that will allow us to access an even more favorable mortgage.
Vermont residents may become member-owners of the co-op by buying one or more common shares at $1,000 per share. Under the Bylaws of the cooperative, each member has one vote in decisions of the business regardless of how many shares they own. Decisions made by the whole membership include electing members to serve on the Board of Directors (seven seats) and decisions to buy or sell properties.
If you're interested in joining please fill out our Expression of Interest form
Q: Why is this organized as a co-op?
A: Operating as a co-op provides several key benefits:
• Many people can support the project by investing at a relatively low buy-in (relative to other investment options)
• It gives us access to some financing options not available to other kinds of businesses
• This business structure fosters member input
• It meets an exemption in Vermont securities law that makes it simple for us to recruit members and offer shares in the business.
• It structurally locks in our commitment to our values, and fosters our ability to balance multiple bottom lines beyond financial performance.
Q: What is the flow of funds?
Rent Paid By Tenant to Co-op
Operating Expenses and Debt Service
10% of Profit Set Aside into Reserves (legal requirement)
Dividends to Members (up to a maximum 6% annual return)
Patronage Refund to Tenant Members
(a portion also retained as reserve, for purposes such as repurchasing investor shares)
Q: What are the risks in joining this co-op?
A: We cannot guarantee a return on members’ investment in any given year, though our goal is to provide a decent return. We specifically do not expect to pay a dividend in VREC’s first year of owning property, so investments at this point should be made in that light.
Owning real estate brings inherent risks of unexpected costs and/or loss of income. The board has built savings into the budget projections against such possibilities. The risk of losses will be higher in the co-op’s early years. It will drop as we build the reserves over time.
Likewise, reserves will be used to buy shares back from members at their request, so in the first one to two years of VREC’s operation the co-op may have to delay acting on any requests to sell shares back.
In the worst case the amount that members invest to buy shares could also be at risk, if VREC were to fold and/or needed to sell properties at a loss.
Founding Board Members
Damon Lane, President
small landlord; sustainable energy engineer
Julia Curry, Vice President
advisor to housing co-ops; past board president of City Market/ Onion River Co-op
Matt Cropp, Treasurer
Co-Executive Director of Vermont Employee Ownership Center, President of Full Barrel Co-op, Chair of the Vermont Solidarity Investing Club, Chair of the Oak Street Cooperative, Community Working Group Operations Team Member of social.coop.
Trav Fryer, Secretary
small landlord, ‘IT professional’, board member of Laboratory B hackerspace/cooperative, co-founder of Burlington Federation of Cooperative Houses
Vikas Mangipudi, Director at Large
Treasurer of the Vermont Solidarity Investing Club, former housing co-op member, proud employee-owner at Vermont Information Processing
Jules Lees, Director at Large