News / Vancouver

B.C. won’t pay for federal co-op housing subsidy shortfall

The province is refusing to pick up the bill once federal subsidy contracts for low-income residents living in housing co-ops end, but the Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia (CHF BC) say it’s going to be the provincial government's responsibility.

Minister for housing Rich Coleman was not available for comment, but a spokesperson from the ministry said co-ops have always been funded by the federal government and any discussions about continued funding should go through them.

 Deputy premier and minister responsible for housing Rich Coleman.

Deputy premier and minister responsible for housing Rich Coleman.

“The provincial government is not considering stepping in should the federal government decide to change their funding model,” the ministry said in an emailed statement.

However, the province has had “productive discussions” with co-ops in the past year about accessing existing funding programs, according to the ministry, and BC Housing is currently looking at ways the system could absorb those soon to be in need.

Executive director of CHF BC Thom Armstrong confirmed those meetings have taken place, but doesn’t think it should be the only avenue the government is looking at.

“It isn’t our preferred option for meeting the needs of low-income co-op members going forward,” he said. “But we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement that works for every low-income co-op member currently in receipt of federal assistance. Discussions have been positive and BC Housing staff are aware of the issue and sensitive to the needs of affected co-op members.”

As the federal subsidy contracts expire from 2014 to 2021, Armstrong expects the province to pick up the roughly $10-million a year bill that will come with it or be faced with the price of the fallout.

It's a small price to pay, according to Erin Kastner, a co-op member for seven years at the Grandview Housing Co-operative in Vancouver.

“They’d lose their community really,” Kastner said if no rent-assistance were to come through for their members in need. “And for some people they consider the co-op family. Some people still live here who moved in in 1979.”

 Brad White and his two daughers, Marley and Piper, stand next to the mural at Britannia Secondary School in East Vancouver.

Brad White and his two daughers, Marley and Piper, stand next to the mural at Britannia Secondary School in East Vancouver.

The Grandview Co-op houses 19 families, one-third of which require rent-subsidy, and the wait-list to get into the co-op stretches to nearly half a decade.

Their federal subsidy contract ends in November and Kastner is hoping for a resolution before then.

If not, they’ll do everything they can to keep their neighbours' roofs over their heads.

“We are committed as a co-op to still be able to provide subsidy,” Kastner said.

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