About Housing Co-operatives

What’s a Co-op

A non-profit housing co-operative (housing co-op) is a corporation whose business is providing housing for its members. Unlike rental housing, a housing co-operative doesn’t have a landlord, and doesn’t make a profit from the rent it collects.

Running a co-op is a lot of work for its members. It is, after all, a business with a mortgage to be paid. A lot of work, yes, but there are advantages: because members are responsible for the operation of their own housing, they can manage the co-op in a manner that best serves the membership; members are also free to create the kind of community they wish to live in.

In Canada, housing co-operatives are formed under various sections of the National Housing Act. Four Sisters Housing Co-operative was created under Section 95 (formerly section 56.1) of the National Housing Act. Co-ops in British Columbia are required to conform to the Cooperative Association Act, SBC, (SBC means Statutes of British Columbia). The Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, CHF BC, has produced an excellent resource, Guide to the Co-op Act, which explains how the Cooperative Association Act applies to housing co-operatives.

Governance

Co-ops are democratic organizations. Both master and associate members have voting privileges. Members elect a board of directors from the membership. The board designates committees, as required, to assist the board. The role of the board and its committees is extremely important. How well a co-op operates is a direct reflection of how well the board governs.

The board of directors may contract services to help with day-to-day operations. Four Sisters has contracts for an office administrator, a maintenance co-ordinator, an accountant, and various trades.

Participation

Co-ops cannot operate without the participation of their members, there is simply too much to do. This is why most co-ops require at least some level of participation from their members. Members are needed as board and committee members as well as to assist in many other activities. Not a finance guru? Can’t type a report to save your soul? No matter. Snow on the sidewalk doesn’t clear itself, light bulbs need changing, leaves need raking, flowers need planting, social events need planning. We’ve found that all members are able to contribute in a very meaningful way. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy feeling useful?