|Case Studies in Community-Based Credit Systems for Low-Income Housing (HABITAT, 1995, 63 p.)|
|IV. MUTUAL AID COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT IN URUGUAY|
Solidarity, Organisation, Self-Management
First of all, the cooperative is an enterprise. Its initial objective is the construction of housing units for its members, but it hardly ever finishes there.
The required resources come from two main sources: from credits the cooperative is granted according to the Ley de Viviendas (Housing Act); and from the contribution of labour from the members of the group. The resources are managed by the members who receive technical advice from non-profit inter-disciplinary professional teams. Thus, there is no profit-raising intermediary.
A second condition is the contribution of the beneficiaries, their labour, mutual-aid and tasks related to the management of the cooperative. Labour is hired only when it is strictly necessary because of organization or specialization. The contribution of mutual aid is controlled by bylaws approved in a meeting of the cooperative. The contribution is generally from 20 to 25 hours per week per family unit, including a percentage which must be carried out by its adult male members.
Another important factor for achieving the cooperatives economic objectives relates to self-management and its relationships with the technical advisory team. The cooperative is advised on technical matters by the professional teams, but ultimately, the final decision on each subject shall belong to the cooperative itself.
A Mutual Aid Cooperative: How it works
According to the Ley Nacional de Viviendas, the cooperatives have five directive and control bodies: the General Meeting, the Board of Directors, the Promotion Committee, the Treasury Committee and the Electoral Committee.
The General Meeting, where each member family has a vote, is the highest body, trustee of the groups sovereignty. It is responsible for considering and approving the Annual Report establishing the integration of the share capital and of the special funds modifying the number of members of the directive bodies and electing their members as well as being in charge of introducing progress of works; modifying the bylaws, dissolving the cooperative and deciding about its merger with other cooperatives or its integration with second-grade federations.
The Meeting can be summoned by the Board of Directors, by the Treasury Committee or by the cooperative members, in this case with 10 per cent of the signatories agreeing. The Board of Directors is the executive body of the cooperative. It is generally composed of five or seven members, elected by the meeting, who assign among themselves the functions of President, Secretary and Treasurer, as well as other related tasks. During the building stage, the Board of Directors takes decisions related to the management of the works, informing the General Meeting about actions taken by monthly reports.
The decisions include use of financial resources (loan from the Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay), purchase and control of materials, equipment and tools, hiring and control of labour, etc. In this work the Board of Directors is supported by of two subcommittees Labour and Works. The latter committee includes a foreman and a manager (employees paid by the cooperative) and an architect, director of Works, who is a member of the Institute of Technical Assistance. This subcommittee is responsible for the organization and execution of the works, while the Labour subcommittee is in charge of organizing and controlling the of mutual aid by its members.
The Promotion Committee is the cooperative body in charge of information dissemination, communication and integration of members and their families into groups, as well as of the relationship between the cooperative and the community. The Treasury Committee is the control body of the cooperative. Its functions relate to the financial and administrative aspects, as well as to the execution of the cooperatives objectives. The Electoral Committee, finally, is in charge the election of authorities of the cooperative.
The Institutes of Technical Assistance
According to Ley de Viviendas, the Institutes of Technical Assistance are destined to provide the legal, cooperative education, financial, economical and social services at the lowest cost, being able to include also the technical services of project and direction of works; all of them provided non-profit according to law.
The Act and its regulations control the scope of advice which should be provided for, as well as the highest remuneration; the non-observance of these provisions leads to the loss of legal status of the Institute and its disqualification. The advice covers diverse aspects: legal (obtaining of legal status, bylaws, land deeds, contracts, proceedings, legal and regulatory interpretations, etc); management (cooperative organization, accountancy, administration); financial (investment policy, use of resources); building (development and housing projects, budget and technical direction of works); social (training of management teams, practice of self-management, living together and community participation).
The Institutes of Technical Assistance were eliminated by Act No. 14.666 June 1977, which eliminated also the Housing National Office and the National Institute of Low Cost Housing Building (INVE), and centred the responsibility for the execution of the Uruguayan housing policy in the Banco Hipotecario (mortgage bank).