News / Vancouver

Co-op housing residents need new funding to replace lost federal dollars

Within seven years housing co-ops across Canada will be without federal funding, with Vancouver’s first co-op scheduled to finish its contract this year.

Currently one-third of residents living inside of co-op housing units require low-income subsidies to help pay their rent, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to live there.

But the federal government is done picking up the bill once their contracts finish and the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC (CHF BC) says they need someone to pick up the slack before it’s too late.

“Responsibility has shifted to the provinces, but all the co-ops we’re meeting with tonight were funded under federal agreements,” said Thom Armstrong, executive director of CHF BC. “So as those agreements expire we need the provincial government to pick up the slack and offer rent assistance to low-income co-op members.”

There’s room in the provincial government’s budget, Armstrong said, stating it would cost roughly $10-million a year once all the contracts finish by 2021.

“But that’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the social cost of affordable housing or homelessness, so we think it’s a good investment for the government to make in affordable housing and we’re prepared to help them roll that program out when the time comes,” he said.

Sixty concerned co-op residents were in attendance at CHF BC’s first meeting on this issue Thursday night in Burnaby.

CHF BC communications director Fiona Jackson and Don Hauka led a presentation describing the situation and fielded any questions people had.

Jackson and Hauka said they had met with the province’s minister for housing Rich Coleman and say he is open to their ideas, which is why these meetings have now begun.

“It takes a whole co-op community to educate a minister in this case,” Hauka said jokingly.

To start, CHF BC recommended their members begin talking to their MLA and MP’s, to attend meetings, share their experiences and basically get their voices heard.

Vancouver is home to the largest number of housing co-operatives in the Lower Mainland at 107.

Kitsun, a Vancouver housing co-op with 17 units located near Vine Street and Broadway, is the first to finish its federal contract this year.

No new meetings are scheduled at this point, but Armstrong said this was the first of many to come.

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