The Saanich-based president of the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C. is breathing a sigh of relief following last week’s announcement by the federal government pledging $30 million to short-term rent assistance.
Patty Shaw, who lives in the Kailasa Co-op in the Glanford neighbourhood, is hoping the money will go towards helping low-income co-op members and ensure their homes remain affordable.
There are more than 21,000 low-income co-op households in Canada, with rents kept affordable because of federal agreements that are about to expire.
It puts thousands of people at risk of losing their homes, including locally here in Saanich, Shaw said.
“Thirty per cent of the members in co-op housing across Canada are low income, and the rest are mid to average income,” Shaw said. “A lot of those 30 per cent are people with a disability, seniors or new Canadians.”
CHF B.C.’s executive director Thom Armstrong applauded the federal commitment to help fix the co-op housing crunch. “The short-term relief as federal housing agreements come to an end lifts an enormous weight off the minds of thousands of vulnerable co-op households in B.C.”
The Kailasa Co-op is within close vicinity of two more, the Homeward Co-op and North Ridge Co-op. Each are only about two dozen (or less) units, though Saanich is home to the Marigold Co-op, which is the biggest on the Island with 86 units. Like most co-ops in Canada, Kailasa was set to lose its federal grant subsidy for low-income inhabitants in 2017, but now there’s renewed hope.
“We’re really happy and excited about the direction of support from the federal government and look forward to building more co-ops, renovating existing co-ops and the continued subsidizing for low-income tenants,” Shaw said.
There are signs of progress with the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C. In Vancouver, the city donated prime property and the CHFBC has begun building the 278 units for the Fraserview Co-op and Sanford Housing, of family townhouses and smaller units.
This was helped by a new funding model for development, Community Housing Land Trust Foundation, a vehicle CHFBC put together to build more co-op housing.
Shaw was part of the Land Trust’s creation, with a goal of pulling together the partnerships and financing, and move forward without total government funding.
The reality is, even with $30 million pledged to affordable housing, the co-ops are hitting a crucial window, Shaw said.
“We need to keep a status quo while we work on the negotiating agreement, to build a national housing strategy that brings together the provincial, municipal and federal governments.”