Guest column: Co-operatives contribute to rental housing market, Coun. Fred Haynes

Coun. Fred Haynes: Nearly 51,900 modest-income Canadians currently live in rent-geared-to-income federally-funded housing.

Nearly 51,900 modest-income Canadians currently live in rent-geared-to-income federally-funded housing. This doesn’t impact our Saanich community as much as others, but it does put this important form of housing in the public eye and requires it to receive fair consideration. This article considers co-operative housing.

The co-op model itself reduces costs by its not-for-profit operation, shared responsibilities for some maintenance, bulk buying and other things. I might also add that the linkages between economic prosperity and housing affordability dramatically reveal themselves in the escalating societal costs realized when supported housing is simply unavailable.

While only a newly elected member of Saanich Council with many things to think about and admittedly knowing very little about this housing form or how local government might be involved in the future, I do feel the subject deserves public discussion.

Here’s what I’ve been told about our local experience over the past 40 years with co-op housing forms.

There are 12 co-op housing sites in the District of Saanich

These are inhabited by 376 co-op families and individuals in our community.

To put this in greater local context, 2011 data indicates that Saanich has 45,390 households, of which 12,145 are rental households. We also learned we have 2,214 units of “social housing.” A breakdown of those units is: homeless (88); seniors (849); special needs (271) and families (1,006). Across the CRD as a whole are some 1,172 co-op houses.

My sense is that someone needs to tell us what mix is appropriate for our size and community make up. It could well be that someone will advise that we’re not pulling our weight when it comes to the supply of social housing. There’s lots of other new housing data out there and we need to understand it.

Local proponents for co-op housing appeared by my invitation at Saanich Council July 6 and received a warm reception. Patty Shaw, a Saanich resident and president of the Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia, reported the biggest challenge is expiry of federal co-op operating agreements providing rent support for several thousands of low to modest-income households across Canada.

Loss of rental support has already happened to co-ops in Saanich and CRD. This situation will peak in 2017. Co-op housing an agenda item at our July 13 meeting, with my report requesting Council consider asking our federal and provincial counterparts to work jointly and/or separately to maintain support for assisted housing.

Our Official Community Plan says we need to plan for our future needs. Given this, I believe we might agree that it is the ‘range of housing’ options we need to think more about, and this includes opportunities for our stock of private, non-profit and co-op rental housing.

It seems to me that not all housing for our citizens will look the same and that many forms, styles, and models will need to be considered.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities approved a resolution urging all governments to work together to fix Canada’s housing crunch, increase housing affordability and strengthen Canada’s housing system.

The National Forum on Housing and the Economy has written to the Prime Minister to draw his attention to the important linkages between housing affordability and Canada’s economic prosperity.

With a federal election in the offing, a national conversation led by Jody Ciufo, Executive Director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association is underway.

I felt my job was to raise the issue, welcome discussion and to join with those proposing viable solutions to this challenge.

Fred Haynes, CouncillorDistrict of Saanich