missed labor

21st Street Co-op

The 21st Street Co-op, commonly compared to a treehouse, is a clothing-optional student housing cooperative in Austin, Texas housing 100 residents. It is part of the NASCO co-op system.

Located at 707 West 21st Street, the house is just a few blocks west of the University of Texas at Austin campus and The Drag. The 21st Street Co-op offers a unique combination of suites, walkways, balconies and landscapes. This co-op is the first building in Texas designed from the ground up to be a co-op.

The residents of the 21st Street Co-op are affectionately referred to as Motherf***ers.


The 21st Street Co-op had a difficult birth. The 21st Street Cooperative was under construction in August, 1974. Because the country was in the middle of a recession, many of the construction workers did not have definite jobs after 21st, so they took their time finishing the structure, not to mention the foreman ran off to Ohio with the payroll. The weather was also unusual, making construction particularly difficult.

One hundred contracts for new members had been signed and during the summer the members had numerous meetings down the street at the Ark (now Pearl Street Co-op) to discuss co-op philosophy, governance, operating systems, and other ideas for making the co-op function. The most innovative idea that came out of these meetings was the committee system.

Unfortunately, when the semester came, 21st Street was nowhere near completion. Because contracts had been signed, College Houses rented a hotel for the 21st Street members to live in. There, the co-ops committees began to meet.

Things went smoothly for co-opers at the hotel, until the Democratic State Convention came to Austin. They took up all of the hotel rooms, including the ones that 21st Streeters were living in. 21st Street was still not completed, so members moved in with friends and family. Some even moved into the unfinished building, which had no water or electricity.

Finally, in early November the building was officially opened. People moved into the new co-op, and amazingly almost nobody with an original contract had left to find alternative housing. It is widely considered that 21st Street’s difficult beginning brought its members even closer together as a community.

Community structure


The co-op runs on a labor system. Each resident of the co-op does four hours of labor per week coordinated by the Labor Czar officership. Cooking, cleaning, and general house maintenance are a few examples of labor. Labor keeps the cost of living down as members fix and maintain the house themselves. Residents with a desire to invest themselves more into the co-op run for officer positions. These include: Trustee, Education Representative, Labor Czar, Maintenance Coordinator, Social Wrecks, Grounds Hog, PC Guru/Mac Daddy, Menu Planner, Food Buyer, Video Historian, and Coopulator Editors; which are voted on by the house.


General Membership Meetings and Kitchen and Labor (K&L) Meetings are held every week for house members to vote on new plans and actions concerning the house, as well as to review missed labor and interview new members.

House structure


The 100 members share furnished private and double rooms joined into small suites, contributing to a close-knit community. Lofts are common in rooms. Each suite includes a common living room, kitchenette, semi-private baths with floor-to-ceiling windows opening out onto the front and back yards. The kitchenettes are not used often for cooking since there is a large restaurant-sized dining hall that serves three meals a day for the whole house.

Special Areas

Many gatherings and concerts occur in "The Commons". A number of murals can be found in "The Commons" as well as in suites and bathrooms. A Bike Shed is available for bicycle repair and construction. A Maintenance Shed holds tools for needed maintenance. The TV Temple provides three-tiered seating for residents to watch television or movies. A state-of-the-art Computer Lab affords residents internet access and printing capabilities. Many members can be found lounging on the Back Porch sitting on benches, porch swings and picnic tables. The house is complete with several gardens. A cactus garden sits atop the Bike Shed.


  • College Houses
  • Mural in Suite 4B
  • Example of playfulness that can be found at the 21st street co-op

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