The Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association (MHA) and Housing Development Fund Company (HDFC) was incorporated, pursuant to Article XI of the Private Housing Finance Law, with the NYS Department of State in 1991. The incorporation papers were filed with the state on June 28, 1991, and approval of the filing was granted by a NYS Supreme Court Judge in August 15, 1991. It was formed as a non-profit, for the purpose of managing low income housing owned by the City of New York. The corporation is generally known as the Cooper Square MHA. It was formed for the purpose of managing the low income buildings in the Urban Renewal Area, which at the time were owned by HPD.
The impetus for creating the MHA goes back to the mid 1980s, and was the brainchild of its parent organization, the Cooper Square Committee (CSC). CSC had been the lead agency working to preserve and develop low income housing in the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area (the 6-block area between East 5th Street and Stanton Street, and between the Bowery and 2nd Avenue). CSC had developed an Alternate Plan in 1961, adopted by the City of New York in 1970, as the official plan for the Urban Renewal Area. It called for phased demolition of substandard housing on Houston Street in the Urban Renewal Area, construction of new low income housing, and relocation of low income tenants from other sites between East 1st Street and East 4th Street, and then demolition of those substandard buildings for the creation of new affordable housing. By the mid-1980s, this plan had become less viable, and CSC’s members created a Revised Plan in 1986, calling for renovation of more than 20 substandard tenement buildings on East 3rd Street and East 4th Street and some neighboring streets. The renovation plan included enlarging some small apartments to accommodate overcrowded families, and creating code compliant apartments by installing 3-piece bathrooms in each apartment and eliminating water closets in the hallways.
CSC also called for home ownership in the form of resale restricted cooperatives. Borrowing the idea of mutual housing from Northern Europe, CSC envisioned creating a multi-building cooperative in order to create an economy of scale to save money on fuel, insurance, supplies, and repairs. As permanently low income housing, the apartments would be exempt from real estate taxes. While this idea did not gain a lot of traction under the Koch Administration, CSC was successful in getting the Dinkins Administration to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in 1990 spelling out how this model would work. HPD would use NYC capital funds and HUD Hope 2 funds to renovate the buildings, and HPD would transfer management of the buildings over to a non-profit housing company to be formed by CSC. With an agreement and funding commitments in place, CSC formed the Cooper Square MHA, or MHA.