National housing systems increasingly combine three main types of housing: the private property sector (home ownership and private rental), social and public rental (public and non-profit sectors) and cooperative (social or civil economy). The dominant private type has facilitated housing speculation, which in many countries has become a critical source of economic inequality and instability. The cooperative housing type can be a viable alternative with a socio-spatial cohesion effect. This article compares the phenomena of socially oriented cooperative housing in three European countries (Denmark, The Netherlands and Spain). The analytical focus is on the public policies and regulations, and the societal and collective action factors that foster the development of housing cooperatives. The three cases present different institutional settings and ways to develop a socially oriented cooperative housing sector. The research findings contribute to mutual learning processes in searching alternatives to the commercial and very expensive private urban housing provision.