What is Co-op housing?

There are many kinds of co-operatives: food co-ops, co-op daycares, credit unions, retail co-ops, worker co-ops and housing co-ops. Any group of people can form a co-operative. The members own the co-operative and the co-operative provides a service they need. Housing co-operatives provide housing.

Since the 1930s, Canadians have been building and living in housing co-ops. The people who live in the housing are the co-op’s members. They elect, from among themselves, a board of directors to manage the business of the co-op.

Each member has one vote. Members work together to keep their housing well-managed and affordable.

Over the years, federal and provincial governments have funded various programs to help Canadians create non-profit housing co-ops. The co-ops developed under these programs provide good quality, affordable housing. There are more than 261 non-profit housing co-ops comprising more than 14,500 units in British Columbia.

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 (rent). As a co-op member, you have a say in decisions that affect your home. You and your neighbours own your homes co-operatively. Members form a community that works together to manage the co-op. Co-op communities are made up of all kinds of people - people with different backgrounds and incomes and special needs. These diverse and vibrant communities are the unique strength of the co-op housing movement.

 

Life in a housing co-op

What is a housing co-op?

  • A legal association of members
  • Members own the co-op, the co-op owns the housing
  • Members work together to create a viable business and a co-operative community
  • A co-op is a home, not an investment
  • Goal is security of tenure, not equity

 What the co-op will expect from you:

  • Pay your housing charges on time
  • Follow the co-op’s rules and policies
  • Keep your unit in good condition
  • Be a good neighbour
  • Get involved in the co-op

All co-ops, including housing co-ops, are guided by the co-operative principles:

  • open membership
  • democratic member control
  • economic participation
  • independence
  • co-operative education
  • co-operation with other co-operatives
  • community.

Who lives in co-ops?
Housing co-ops are mixed communities. Members of housing co-ops come from a variety of backgrounds and have a range of incomes. Some members pay the full housing charge. This is often called a "market" housing charge. Other members with lower incomes pay less. This is usually called a subsidized housing charge or rent-geared-to-income.

What is subsidy?
Most non-profit housing co-ops receive money from the government (federal and/or provincial) program that helped develop them.  The subsidy helps the co-op subsidize a certain number of housing units so that the housing charge for these units is adjusted to the income of the household. If a household qualifies for a subsidy, their housing charge is usually set at 25-30% of the household’s income plus charges for utilities.

How do I apply for co-op housing?
Most co-ops have waiting lists. These lists are particularly long for people who need subsidized housing. The standard wait to get into a housing co-op is between three months and three years.