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Is a Co-Op the Right Accommodation for You? Things You Should Know About Housing Cooperatives
Kyle Gieni, Resource Coordinator, PIRC
June 23, 2015

Is a Co-Op the Right Accommodation for You? Things You Should Know About Housing Cooperatives

coop housing

Broadview Housing Cooperative Located on West Broadway and Waterloo, Vancouver, B.C., is where I’ve called home for the past 6 years. I found out about this place through word of mouth at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre where I work out in the gym on a regular basis. After applying and successfully getting accepted by the co-op; I started attending meetings, became a part of the maintenance committee, and was in charge of collecting coins from the laundry. Since then, I’ve been Vice-President, and am the current President of the co-op; running meetings, signing cheques, and making sure the housing operations run as seamless as possible. My co-op is made up of 17 total units; 4 single bedroom wheelchair accessible units, 2 two bedroom wheelchair accessible units, 3 single bedroom units, and 8 two bedroom + den units. Here are some points to think about when considering housing cooperatives as a place to call home.

  1. Most Housing Cooperatives Offer Subsidy.
  • Non-profit housing co-ops receive money from the government to help house some low-income members. The housing charge for these units is adjusted to the household’s income; usually 30% of a member’s income is used for housing charges.
  • Government subsidy makes up the difference between what the member pays and the co-op’s normal housing charge. When a co-op’s operating agreement with government ends, the subsidy will also end. By the year 2020, housing cooperatives will no longer receive government subsidy as the federal government will no longer be offering this.
  • Without the help of trusty B.C. Members of Parliament, subsidy will cease to exist as another housing crisis looms for the low-income population. So please inquire with your local MP if you do not want to see low-income cooperative households suffer.
  1. No Housing Cooperatives are the same.
  • For example there are small cooperatives with as little as 4 – 12 townhouse units and there can be large apartment style cooperatives with over 200 units. The average size of a housing cooperative in B.C. is 56 units.
  • Broadview Housing co-op is unique since there are 17 housing units and 3 business units attached on the main level of the Broadway side. The businesses are leased by the co-op to offset the co-ops expenditures.
  1. Surplus can be used to Maintain a Housing Cooperative
  • Surplus funds usually occur in co-ops that have remarkable property management run by its members. In my case, the properly run businesses attached to the co-op contribute to the surplus.
  • Surplus arising from the association’s operations are used for developing the co-op, providing or improving services to members, establishing reserves for future expenditures, community welfare, and distribution to members as a patronage return.
  • Broadview Housing co-op uses some of its surplus to subsidize housing charges for the disabled and for those on social assistance.
  1. Every Unit Owns a Share in the Co-op and Every Unit has the Right to Vote
  • Depending on the housing cooperative, shares can range from $1000 – $7000, average of $2000/unit. For those on government assistance, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation offers an interest free loan for share purchase in a housing co-op.
  • Members actually own the co-op. They pay a fee to the co-op to use the service that it provides. In this case the service is housing.
  • Members determine the policies of the co-op, including housing charges, parking, pets, etc. Each member has one vote, regardless of how much they pay for housing.
  • Shares are treated much like security deposits.
  1. British Colombia Housing Cooperatives are Non-Profit.
  • This means housing cooperatives use surplus revenues to further achieve their purpose/mission, rather than distributing its surplus income to the co-ops directors as profit. Ultimately, the goal is to keep housing charges at an affordable level while it is getting harder and harder to find reasonable housing in B.C.
  1. Like all Co-ops, Housing Co-ops are Guided by the Co-operative Principles
  • Open membership
  • Democratic member control
  • Economic participation
  • Independence
  • Cooperative education
  • Cooperation with other cooperatives
  • Community
  1. Housing Cooperatives are democratic communities where the residents make decisions on how the co-op functions.
  • The members of a cooperative elect a board of directors from among themselves to manage the business of the co-op. Depending on the cooperative; the board of directors is made up of chairpersons from the Finance committee, Maintenance committee, Membership committee, and sometimes Commercial Space committee.
  • In addition to the committee chairs, there is a President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer making up the executive committee. Each committee has separate meetings dealing with particular issues that arise from daily housing issues. The committee chairs then report to the executive committee to further discuss problems and make decisions to ratify issues.
  1. As a co-op member, you have security of tenure.
  • This means that you can live in your home for as long as you wish if you follow the rules of the co-op and pay your housing charge on time.
  • You must also keep your unit in good condition and be a good neighbour.
  • Getting involved in the daily cooperative undertakings is also required and is a big reason for the successes of co-ops. The good people living in housing cooperatives usually go above and beyond what is expected of them to make their common living areas kept as nice as possible.
  1. How to Apply for Cooperative Housing.
  • Check the list of co-ops from the directory found on the CHF (Community Housing Federation) BC website, www.chf.bc.ca, to see what co-ops are accepting applications.
  • Request and fill out the application form for each co-op. Tell the co-op as much as you can about your household, your income, and your skills. This helps the co-op to know whether you are suitable for the available unit.
  • A waitlist is usually formed in order for the co-ops to pull out applications from a list of potential members, when a unit comes available.
  • When a unit comes available, you will be interviewed along with other potential members to determine eligibility. The interview also gives you a chance to learn about the co-op and find out what is expected of members.
  • If you are successful, the co-op will call you back for an official vote to have you become a member and to make housing arrangements.

 

 

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Information provided in our blog posts is not intended to be legal advice.

The outcome of every legal proceeding will vary according to the facts and unique circumstances in each individual case. References to successful case results where the lawyers at Murphy Battista LLP have acted for clients are not necessarily a guarantee or indicative of future results.