WHAT IS A HOUSING CO-OP?
From the outside, a housing Co-op looks like any other townhouse development or apartment building. But a housing Co-op is different - here's how:
OWNED BY MEMBERS
The residents of a housing Co-op are members of the Co-operative corporation which owns the whole property. The Co-op provides a unit (townhouse or apartment) to a member household. A household can consist of one or more adults - with or without children. Members do not own their own units.
MANAGED BY MEMBERS
All members have an equal say in how major decisions are made - "one member, one vote". Members come together at meetings to elect a Board of Directors, to approve the annual budget and approve by-laws. Each director is a member of the Co-operative who lives in the Co-op. Other members work on committees or they perform various tasks to help with the work involved in running the co-op. A Co-op also employs staff in the co-op's office who look after the day-to-day business of the co-op.
INVOLVEMENT BY MEMBERS
The key difference between co-ops and other kinds of non-profit housing is that Co-operative members are actively involved in running their housing community. Each Co-op member must volunteer time to serve on the Board or on a committee, or volunteer for some other Co-op task. Members do not need special skills to get involved. They learn from one another and in special training sessions designed for Co-operative members. Members get to know each other through their working together in the co-op. This involvement creates a sense of community and a safe place for children and adults.
WHO CAN LIVE IN A HOUSING CO-OP?
Anyone can apply to live in a housing co-op. People of all backgrounds and cultures - young and old, married or single, with and without children - live in co-ops. Co-ops are also home to people with different kinds of disabilities and who have special needs. Co-ops select their own members from those applicants who will be willing to share the responsibility of running the Co-operative once they become members. A willingness to live in a diverse community is important in order to be a Co-operative member.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Each member household pays a monthly housing charge (like rent) to cover the costs of operating the co-op. Some households pay the market housing charge, and other households pay an assisted housing charge that is based on income. The market housing charge is usually about the same as the rent in a similar private rental unit in the area. An assisted housing charge is about 30% of the gross monthly household income.
The number of units in each Co-operative for which housing charge assistance is available is limited. Members enjoy the same kind of unit and all the benefits of membership regardless of whether they pay the market charge or an assisted charge.
HOW DO I APPLY?
First, you must decide which Co-operative you wish to apply to. Each Co-op has its own application. You contact the Co-op to find out about its application process. Many co-ops hold regular information meetings where you can find out more about the co-op, ask questions, and pick up an application form. The membership criteria are similar for each co-op. The Co-op will consider your application based on its own criteria. Criteria will include: financial responsibility, interest in co-op living and participating in the co-op, and a willingness to live in a diverse community.
After you have completed an application, you will be invited to an interview where members of the co-op's selection committee will ask you some questions. They will discuss with you the members' rights and responsiblities of living in a co-op. You may be placed on a waiting list if no units are available at the time.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT CO-OP HOUSING?
You can contact the Central Ontario Co-operative Housing Federation.
Central Ontario Co-operative Housing Federation
29 King Street East, Suite 2
Kitchener, ON N2G 2K4