HISTORY OF THE CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT

In England:

The year was 1844, and Rochdale was a dirty industrial town in the heart of England's manufacturing area. Men, women and children worked in the factories under oppressive conditions. After an unsuccessful strike, twenty-eight weavers decided to set up a Co-operative store to help each other during those hard times.

They drafted eleven principles of co-operation and began to raise capital. Each member contributed one pound over a period of several months. Finally, they rented a tiny store on Toad Lane and opened for business.

The Rochdale pioneers were successful. Many people decided to shop co-operatively, and soon they became (as they are today) one of the largest retailers in town. More importantly, their ideas spread and formed a model for successful co-operatives. Soon, co-operatives were developing all over Europe.
 

In 1864, Friedrich Raiffensen started the first credit union of the type we know today. Another kind of Co-operative idea caught on and spread.

The movement grew and reached into virtually every sector of the economy: food, finance, agriculture, housing, insurance. The larger it grew, the more clearly the need was seen for an international organization to aid new Co-operative development and encourage mutual self-help within the movement.

For this purpose, the International Co-operative Alliance was formed in 1895. Among the principles adopted by the I.C.A. are some that are particularly applicable to housing co-operatives:
 

In Canada:

The Canadian Co-operative movement began in 1900, when Alphonse Desjardins started North America's first successful credit union in Levis, Quebec. Credit Unions and caisse populaires in Canada now have assets in the billions; there are over 1200 credit unions in Ontario alone.

Around and after the turn of the century, agriculture co-operatives such as United Co-operatives of Ontario were banding together to buy farm supplies. (Gay Lea is one of the brand names used by farm co-operatives.) The early 1920's saw the formation of Co-operative creameries and wheat pools.

The Co-operative Union of Canada was formed in 1901 to encourage sharing of information, mutual self-help and concerted actions among Co-operative organizations. It was the large farm co-operatives, particularly in the west, that provided the main political thrust to the movement. In fact, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.) eventually grew into one of the three main political parties of Canada - The New Democratic Party.

The 1930's saw the birth of the building Co-operative and the continuing housing co-op. Building co-ops are those incorporated for the bulk purchase of materials and construction services. Once the houses are built, the Co-operative dissolves and the members own their houses individually. This type of Co-operative is popular particularly in the Maritimes, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

In a continuing housing Co-operative, the group not only builds or acquires the buildings, but continues to own or lease them. Members have right of occupancy, but no individual ownership.

Aside from student housing co-ops that began to appear on university campuses in the thirties, the first continuing Co-operative was Willow Park, built in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1964. Between 1964 and 1970, eight more family projects were built, including Alexandra Park Co-operative in Toronto and Ashworth Square in Mississauga.

As the seventies approached, rising land and construction costs made financing co-ops more and more difficult. The supporters of the Co-operative movement began arguing for legislative changes which would make financing easier. Finally, in 1973, a number of amendments to the National Housing Act gave preferred rates of interest to non-profit housing co-ops.

From 1973 to 1978 over a hundred Co-operatives were developed across Canada. The concentration, however, was in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. This was primarily because these provinces piggybacked a provincial subsidy on top of the Federal government's subsidy. This meant co-operatives could be viable in large urban centres. The program did not work easily in provinces without provincial participation.

Thus, in 1978 the Federal government held a program review in order to develop a universal program not dependent on provincial participation. Under this program co-operatives were developed across Canada in greater numbers than ever before.

With growth comes recognition, and the Co-operative movement has taken its place as the "third sector" of housing, being neither "public" nor "private" in nature.

One of the factors contributing to the growth of this "third sector" was the support and energy committed by such organizations as the Canadian Labour Congress and the Co-operative Union of Canada. Their joint committee, the National Labour Co-operative Committee, worked very hard to get funding for housing co-ops from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and to involve churches and credit unions in the process.
 

Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada:

In 1970, that Committee formed the Co-operative Housing Federation (C.H.F.), a resource and special interest group to promote the Co-operative concept and lobby in favour of the 1973 amendments to the National Housing Act. Another important mandate of the Federation was to encourage the establishment of regional resource groups at the local level to assist with the development of non-profit housing co-ops. (One of these resource groups, Homestarts Incorporated, assisted in the development of this Co-op.)

C.H.F. is an organization of housing co-operatives and related groups, which include local associations of co-operatives as well as resource groups. C.H.F. members work together in a network whose purpose is two-fold: (1) to ensure the effective operations of housing co-ops, and (2) to develop new co-ops.

C.H.F. played a fundamental role in negotiations that resulted in the 1978 "56.1" program and the Federal program which succeeded it in 1986. It continues to monitor legislative activities that can affect the sector and the member organizations.

Drumlin Co-operative Homes Inc.

Drumlin Co-operative was first established in September 1988 and first occupied in 1989, and consists of 2, 3 and 4-bedroom units and 5 accessible units. There is a community centre and office in the middle of the Co-operative grounds which houses laundry, maintenance and storage facilities along with the office. The staff personnel work out of the office area and are available 55 hours (20 open office hours) per week to the membership.