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.
How long will I have to wait to get into a co-op?
After applying, it takes three months to three years to get into most co-ops. Some co-ops are not accepting applications. Those applying for subsidy have a longer wait than those paying the market housing charge.
Who lives in co-ops?
Non-profit housing co-ops are mixed communities. Members of housing co-ops come from a variety of backgrounds and have a wide range of incomes. Some members pay a full housing charge. This is often called a "market" housing charge. Other members with lower incomes pay less. This is called a subsidized housing charge. Some units in most every non-profit co-op are subsidized.
What is subsidy?
Most non-profit housing co-ops receive money from the government (federal or provincial) to help house some low-income members. The housing charge for these units is adjusted to the household’s income. This is often referred to as "rent-geared-to-income" or "RGI" or a subsidized housing charge. The subsidy makes up the difference between what the member pays and the co-op’s normal housing charge. The amount of subsidy availability is limited. When a co-op’s operating agreement with government ends, the subsidy will also end. Co-ops have to start planning for that future.
Is there a maximum income ceiling to qualify for a co-op?
The dollar amount of the income ceiling varies. Other co-ops, as far as we know, do not have income ceilings.
What is a share purchase?
A share purchase is the share you buy to become a member of a co-op. Usually, one member per unit in a co-op buys a share in the co-op as they are accepted for membership. Each share gives a member a vote in general meetings. Shares range from $1,000 to $7,000 (a typical share purchase is around $2,000).
A share is a little bit like a damage deposit in that you get the money back when you leave the co-op (unless the unit has been damaged in which case the share is used to cover repair costs). However, co-ops do not return share purchases with interest.
Please note that in most co-ops, two months' notice is required prior to moving out. Shares also stand as the co-op's working capital.