Housing cooperatives are a concept that works for various levels of income, and not just for affluent New Yorkers. The benefits to the shareholder go beyond tax benefits. A co-op building has its own mortgage, so buying into a co-op means easier financing and lower down payments and closing costs. Another benefit of co-ownership is that the tenants, who are the co-op shareholders, are not personally liable for the building's mortgage, only for their personal loans. Decision making is a shared responsibility in housing cooperatives. All of these benefits have nothing to do with personal wealth, and there are different kinds of housing co-ops available.
Limited equity co-ops offer affordable housing, with benefits such as lower interest loans and tax breaks. This is good for people who would not otherwise be able to afford their own home. In return for the lower ownership costs, the amount of profit that can be made is limited. That means that the selling price for the stock -- your housing unit -- is restricted. Leasing co-ops, or zero-equity co-ops, are usually owned by non-profit organizations. They lease housing units to the corporation. If the co-op wishes to buy the property if it comes up for sale, they can then change the nature of the housing cooperative into a different type. Market-rate co-ops let the owners sell for whatever price they can get, and the profits are retained by the individual owner, just like any other home ownership. Another kind of housing co-op is called a mutual housing association, which is developed owned and operated by a non-profit organization established for that purpose and controlled by the residents.
Co-ops are not limited to urban settings; there are also environmentally-oriented co-ops that are founded by groups that want to emphasize sustainable living. There are also government-owned co-ops, rural co-ops for farmers, and those specifically designed for the elderly population.