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What is co-op housing?

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Michi | 21 Dec 2011, 01:10 PM Agree 0
Guide to Co-operative Housing

Housing co-operatives ("co-ops") provide a place for people to live. In 1999 there were over 2,000 housing co-ops in Canada with 111,000 members and combined assets of nearly $5.6 billion.1

Co-ops come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from collections of single unit townhouses and small buildings with 4-12 units to large apartment-style buildings with hundreds of units.

What sets co-ops apart from private rental housing is that they are democratic communities where the residents make decisions on how the co-op operates.

Members, the board and staff each have responsibilities to the co-op, as shown in the figure below.

There are two main types of housing co-ops: non-profit and for-profit. While this guide does not look at the differences between the two, many provinces require that housing co-ops operate on a non-profit basis. If the co-op is non-profit, members cannot sell their shares in the co-op. In for-profit housing co-operatives, members own a share of the co-op, but not the individual unit they live in.

Housing co-ops offer several advantages to members:

Affordability Housing co-ops are member-owned and controlled organizations. The monthly housing charges are set by the members to cover the costs of running the co-op.
Governance Governance is about the overall direction of the co-op and is the job of directors and members of the co-op. Co-ops are democratically run and each member has a vote. Members elect the board of directors, approve the annual budget and set policy.
Security of tenure A member's right to live in the co-op is protected. A member can live in a co-op for as long as he or she wishes as long as he or she follows the rules (by-laws) of the co-op and pays his or her housing charge (rent) on time.
Community Housing co-ops can also be strong communities, where members actively participate in the business of the co-op. In addition to standard tasks, such as approving the annual budget, members often volunteer with maintenance tasks (e.g. lawn care) and are involved in other community-based projects such as producing a co-op newsletter.
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