Our Archive

Preserving the history of people-powered housing.

HDFC co-op shareholders hold a rich history of resistance, cooperation, and democratic community control. Since the 1970s, co-op shareholders have literally rebuilt their neighborhoods to create lasting affordable housing. UHAB is building an archive to preserve the history of our movement.

This effort was made possible through a collaboration with Interference Archive, as well as the many co-op members and community groups that donated time and materials to share their stories.

UHAB was created in 1973 to assist New Yorkers in creating their own cooperative housing. Learn more about our history here.

Interested in preserving your HDFC’s story? UHAB works with HDFC shareholders to record their histories. Our homesteading oral history program can help you archive the rich history of your HDFC, or work with a neighboring HDFC. Contact info[at]uhab.org to learn more.

Explore the Archive

Poster, “A Series of Forums About Self-Help Renovation of Abandoned Buildings”, 1975
This early workshop series led by UHAB staff and HDFC residents across the city disseminated practical advice for self-help housing in the context of abandonment and uprisings.
Demolition Handbook, UHAB, April 1978
In the early years, residents in the self-help housing movement did an enormous amount of construction to make buildings livable again. UHAB provided support through trainings and handbooks
Rally flyer, “$250 Now”, 1977
Photo, cake at Nina Dunn HDFC, date unknown
The text reads: “Longfellow Ave 1670 / Dave did it / from the tenant league”
Clipping, “Squatters: Staking a Claim”, publication unknown, date unknown
Squatters, urban homesteaders, and other community-controlled responses to housing disinvestment made national headlines throughout the 1970s.
UHAB Holiday Card and Invitation, 1986
UHAB threw yearly holiday parties for the self-help housing community.
Yearbook, 504 West 139th St. HDFC, 1996
Every building has its own story. Many cooperative buildings shared their accomplishments and community through booklets, zines, and photographs.
“Tilting at Windmills” Daily News,  late 1970s.
Using their windmill, residents of Heartstone HDFC fed electricity back into the grid and watched the meter spin backwards. Con Edison sued them but was ultimately forced to accept their homegrown electricity, a landmark case that brought net metering to New York City. This decision still makes local electricity generation possible in New York City today.
The Harlem Renigades, a youth gang in East Harlem, formed the Renigades Housing Movement as a response to disinvestment and abandonment in their neighborhood. With support from UHAB, they took over a tenement building and turned the ground floor into an office for the movement. Gang members who participated in renovations received a stipend and job training. Forty members eventually moved in and received low-cost housing.
“Tenants Tilting at Windmills – and winning” The Christian Science Monitor, 1977
Residents of Heartstone HDFC took control of their energy and installed New York City’s first windmill and solar hot water heater in 1977. Several community groups collaborated on the project, including the Lower East Side’s Energy Task Force and Adopt-a-Building.

This is a living archive! If you’d like to donate materials or be interviewed about your experience with cooperative housing, reach out to us at info@uhab.coop

Learn more about our oral history work

We’re collecting the stories of co-op members.
UHAB’s Oral History Project →