There are many kinds of co-operatives: food co-ops, co-op daycares, credit unions, retail co-ops, worker co-ops and housing co-ops. Any group of people can form a co-operative. The members own the co-operative and the co-operative provides a service they need. Housing co-operatives provide housing.

Since the 1930’s, Canadians have been building and living in housing co-ops. The people who live in the housing are the co-op’s members. They elect, from among themselves, a board of directors to manage the business of the co-op.

Each member has one vote. Members work together to keep their housing well-managed and affordable.

Over the years, federal and provincial governments have funded various programs to help Canadians create non-profit housing co-ops. The co-ops developed under these programs provide good quality, affordable housing. There are more than 255 non-profit housing co-ops comprising 14,300 units in British Columbia. As a co-op member, you have security of tenure. This means that you can live in your home for as long as you wish if you follow the rules of the co-op and pay your housing charge (rent).

As a co-op member, you have a say in decisions that affect your home. You and your neighbours own your homes co-operatively. Members form a community that works together to manage the co-op. Co-op communities are made up of all kinds of people – people with different backgrounds and incomes and special needs. These diverse and vibrant communities are the unique strength of the co-op housing movement.

FAQs

What is a Housing Co-op?

A housing co-op is a business and a community jointly owned by the people who live here. Participation is required.

What does it mean when a co-op listing reads “participation required”?
“Participation required” means that when you become a member of the co-op you will be expected to get involved in running the co-op. This could mean joining a committee such as the finance or membership committee, getting involved in the upkeep of the building, or offering your time to organize co-op events or activities.

Who lives in a co-op?
Non-profit housing co-ops are mixed communities. Members of housing co-ops come from a variety of backgrounds and have a wide range of incomes. Some members pay the full housing charge. This is often called a “market” housing charge. Other members with lower incomes pay less. This is called a subsidized housing charge. Some units in every non-profit co-op are subsidized.

What is subsidy?
Most non-profit housing co-op’s receive money from the government (federal or provincial) to help house some low-income members. The housing charge for these units is adjusted to the household’s income. This is often referred to as “rent-geared-to-income” or “RGI” or a subsidized housing charge. The subsidy makes up the difference between what the member pays and the co-op’s normal housing charge. The amount of subsidy is limited. When a co-op’s operating agreement with government ends, the subsidy will also end. Co-ops have to start planning for that future. CHF BC has tools and resources to help co-ops prepare as part of the 2020 Vision program.

Are co-ops owned by the government?
No. Co-ops are owned by their shareholders, who are the members of the co-op.

What is a share purchase?
A share purchase is the share you buy to become a member of a co-op. Usually, one member per unit in a co-op buys a share in the co-op as they are accepted for membership. Each share gives a member a vote in general meetings. Shares range from $1,000 to $7,000 (a typical share purchase is around $2,000). A share is a little bit like a damage deposit in that you get the money back when you leave the co-op (unless the unit has been damaged in which case the share is used to cover repair costs). However, co-ops do not return share purchases with interest. Please note that in most co-ops, 2 months’ notice is required prior to moving out. Shares also stand as the co-op’s working capital.

Are co-ops low income housing?
No, co-ops are mixed income communities for people of all income levels. Generally, co-ops house people of low and moderate incomes.

How do I apply for co-op housing?
When we are accepting applications, you can fill out the form linked to the bottom of our application page. We periodically close the form when there are too many people on our waitlist.

What information is required when submitting an application?
In addition to the basic information requested in the application, NWHC also requires you to submit financial information.

Do you allow pets?
Yes, each member is allowed two (2) four-legged pets. Exotic pets are not allowed.

Is parking available?
Each member is provided with one underground parking space if required. Please read our parking policy. Ample free street parking is also available.

How long is the waitlist?
NWHC, like most other co-ops, has a long waitlist. We cannot provide an estimate but you should be prepared to wait for 1 or 2 years. We remove from the wait list all applications over 12 months old. After one year, if you are still interested in NWHC, you must re-apply.

How often does the housing charge increase?
Each year, a budget is reviewed and approved by the membership which will determine the amount of the September 1 housing charge increase. To keep up with inflation and other expenses there is an annual housing charge increase. Since we are a non-profit we strive to keep this increase as minimal as possible.