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Greater Victoria housing co-ops face crunch

Patty Shaw received a housing supplement several years ago. It gave her the opportunity to get back on her feet. She said if she didn’t receive it she would have been in dire straits. - Photo contributed
Patty Shaw received a housing supplement several years ago. It gave her the opportunity to get back on her feet. She said if she didn’t receive it she would have been in dire straits.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Everyday Patty Shaw and Melissa Del-Sol are thankful for the co-op housing (rent) supplement they received when their lives were in turmoil. Now they worry for their low-income neighbours who could lose their homes at their Victoria co-ops.

Like others across the country, many Greater Victoria co-ops are facing a funding crunch. Low- and fixed income residents will no longer receive supplements when operating mortgage agreements between co-ops and the federal government end.

“The most vulnerable will be affected, and could be forced into homelessness,” said Shaw, who has lived at Kailasa Housing Co-op in Saanich for more 22 years.

Shaw said most of the residents affected in her building include seniors, people with disabilities and single moms with young children.

The federal government provides capital and operating assistance to co-ops through programs created between 1973 and 1991. Through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, it entered into subsidy agreements that are tied to the term of a co-op’s mortgage.

The Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. said there are 34 federally-funded co-ops representing nearly 1,200 households in the Greater Victoria area. About 400 of those households receive rental assistance.

Rent support for those low-income co-op members will vanish when the operating agreements with Ottawa ends.

CHFBC has launched a campaign – You Hold the Key: Fix the Co-op Housing Crunch – to convince the provincial government to fund and administer a rent supplement program for low-income co-op members as federal agreements end.

It would be money well spent said Del-Sol and Shaw.

Del-Sol has lived at Craigflower Housing Co-op on the border of View Royal and Esquimalt for six years. She needed to go on the rent subsidy program for six months when her marriage broke up and she lost her job.

“I don’t know what I would have done without it,” she said. She is now self-employed and off the subsidy.

Shaw had a similar experience at Kailasa.

She was living from paycheque to paycheque, often using a credit card to fill in the gaps, in order to support herself and two children. Once she got into co-op subsidized housing she was able to make ends meet, returned to school and received a university degree.

“Without the assistance of the subsidy, I don’t know where I would be today. I can’t imagine my circumstances. It was pretty dire.”

The federal government said it won’t continue the subsidy program, and both women fear that if the province doesn’t come up with a program, some people could end up homeless.

“It’s just frightening to think of what will happen,” Shaw said

Del-Sol said a co-op subsidy program is cheaper to operate than more traditional government housing programs because the program is operated by the co-op housing society.

“We do all the management,” she said. “It’s not low-income housing.”

Deputy premier Rich Colmen, who is responsible for housing, was unavailable for comment.

•••

What is a housing co-op?

Any group of people can form a housing co-operative.

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.

Co-op member, have security of tenure. This means that they can live in their home for as long as they wish if they follow the rules of the co-op and pay the housing charge (rent).

– Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C.

 

 

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