Monday, 22 November 2021 17:16

PROFILE: WE DON’T JUST BUILD HOUSES, WE BUILD CITIZENS

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Co‑operative housing is a Canadian success story. For more than 50 years, housing co-ops have been providing Canadians with affordable community housing.

There are many similarities between non-profit housing and co-operative housing, but they’re definitely not the same thing. Non-profits can provide affordability, says Blair Hamilton, Manager for the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada’s Prairie Region. A co-op provides residents with affordable housing plus ownership, plus opportunities for personal growth plus a voice in the operations.

Housing Co-ops Provide More Than Accommodation

Some 250,000 Canadians of all backgrounds, in every province and territory, make their home in a non-profit housing co‑op.

Housing co-op members are collectively joint-owners who control the co-operative and have a vote in its decisions. Every housing co-op is autonomous and uniquely responsive to its community and its members’ needs.

Member-owners - they’re not “tenants” - elect a board of directors from within their housing co-op community. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of living in a housing co-op is the potential for individual members who participate in board or committee activities to develop new skills. Members who wish to contribute to their housing co-op by participating on its board of directors or a committee gain transferable life skills that work equally well at home or in community associations.

Saskatchewan's Social Housing Legacy

Most housing co-ops were developed during the 1970s and ’80s under government social housing programs. Many co-op mortgages - and the operating agreements attached to them - have now ended. Saskatchewan recently negotiated a bilateral agreement with the federal government to deliver community housing and cost-sharing through the province rather than part of a national program.

The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF Canada) and local housing groups are advocating with the province to draft new guidelines and relationships that will sustain and grow the co-op housing sector in Saskatchewan.

The Role of CHF Canada

For their member organizations and the co-op leaders within them,CHF Canada is a trusted advisor and an advocate. CHF Canada has been the voice of co‑operative housing in Canada since 1968. It operates from coast to coast with a decentralized staff of 30.

CHF Canada provides guidance and training on how to run meetings, manage conflict, engage members, interact with community leaders and understand financial reports. Additionally, individual co-ops offer member sessions tailored to the needs of their own communities. Blair Hamilton acknowledges this larger role housing co-ops often play in their members’ lives, saying, “We don’t just build houses, we build citizens.”

Co-ops themselves are economically viable, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada notes, but some of those who live in them might need financial support. There’s a critical need in the province for affordable, non-profit housing. The value-added of housing co-ops makes it a tantalizing prospect once leaders understand the benefits and differences of co-operative housing.

“We need to work with municipal, provincial and federal leaders to rethink how affordable and public housing will be undertaken in the future,” says Blair Hamilton. “We’ll be working with our partners to see that Saskatchewan gets its fair share of housing co-ops and units.”

Governance, Reconciliation and Operational Support

More than 900 independent housing co-ops in English-speaking Canada are members of the Federation. (Quebec’s housing co‑ops are connected indirectly.) CHF Canada provides resources to co-op boards, managers and committees on matters that include governance, democracy, reconciliation, financial and environmental sustainability, and general operations. COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the Federation’s plans to increase its online learning and digital services.

CHF Canada provides guidance and training on how to run meetings, manage conflict, engage members, interact with community leaders and understand financial reports. Additionally, individual co-ops offer member sessions tailored to the needs of their own communities. Blair Hamilton acknowledges this larger role housing co-ops often play in their members’ lives, saying, “We don’t just build houses, we build citizens.”

Learn more at https://chfcanada.coop/

 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 23 November 2021 17:45