End of subsidies put co-op housing at risk

The government subsidies co-op housing groups rely on are coming to an end

Patty Shaw

Patty Shaw

B.C.’s most financially vulnerable co-op housing members are facing a crunch that’s already forcing people out of their homes.

The government subsidies co-op housing groups rely on are coming to an end as the Canadian Mortgage and Housing co-op agreements made from the 1970s to ‘90s are sunsetting.

“Not all co-op housing members are low income but we do have a great number of people who rely on the government subsidies, seniors and single parents, who will be out of options when it comes to staying in their community,” said Saanich’s Patty Shaw, president of the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C.

As a single mom, Shaw moved into the Kailasa Co-op on Burbank Crescent in the Glanford neighbourhood 23 years ago. She raised her two children there, and along the way became involved with the Kailasa board of directors and then the CHFBC. On Monday, she spoke to Saanich council about CHFBC’s You Hold the Key, a campaign to ‘Fix the co-op housing crunch.’

The Kailasa Co-op had two new members move in this year, the first member turnover in seven years. Of the 17 units at Kailasa three are still inhabited by founding members. One of the founding members recently moved, a senior citizen who knew he couldn’t afford it anymore, especially with the subsidies ending, Shaw said.

“The You Hold the Key movement is a plan to keep vulnerable, low-income co-op members in their homes and communities. Otherwise they’re left looking for alternative housing that’s impossible to find [locally].”

Saanich council invited Shaw to return on Monday to speak on a resolution which council is considering. What CHFBC is proposing with You Hold the Key is a provincially funded rent supplement program for low-income co-op members based on the rent supplement agreement many co-ops already have with B.C. Housing under the federal Index-Linked Mortgage program.

There are 59 ILM housing co-ops in B.C. receiving funds from the province. Instead of letting those come to an end (which they will), CHFBC hopes the province can extend the program to low-income co-op members as their federal housing agreements end.

Affordable housing is a priority for first-term Coun. Fred Haynes, who initially invited Shaw to present to Council on behalf CHFBC.

“What we need is the municipal, provincial and federal governments working jointly together,” he said. “In actual fact, supportive housing is a benefit to society, as the costs are greater when that housing isn’t provided. We need many answers on the table and certainly indexing [income-related] is one of them.”

Sidney already endorsed You Hold the Key after a local co-op brought it to council with Shaw’s help.

“We’re not all on income assistance – that needs to be clear – but we have our share of members who do [receive it], and in some places it’s a lot,” Shaw said.

There are 12 co-ops in Saanich. Two of them, the Royal Oak Square and North Ridge Co-op, share the same intersection with Kailasa at Lodi and Burbank.