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What Is Co-operative Housing?

Tyee Co-op Housing

Co-op Housing is people coming together to provide housing for themselves.  Since home ownership is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve, co-operatives offer a means of acquiring affordable housing.  Tyee is a "continuing" housing co-operative, which means members jointly own their multiple family housing and individually lease their units to themselves at cost.

  • Co-ops are owned by their members
  • Co-ops are accountable to their members
  • Co-ops are connected to their community

Being a co-op member means having control over your housing. It also means you have a responsibility to make sure that your co-op is a well-managed and pleasant place to live. If you join a co-op, you will be expected to do the following:

  • Buy shares in the co-op
  • Pay a monthly housing charge
  • Attend members’ meetings
  • Participate in running the co-op
  • Join a committee or the board
  • Help with maintenance
  • Organise social events

Tyee Co-op Housing

Before you apply to become a member, you need to ask yourself if you will have the time and energy to participate in your co-op. The following guidelines are part of the co-operative principles which all co-operatives put into practice:

  • open membership
  • democratic member control
  • economic participation
  • independence
  • co-operative education
  • co-operation with other co-operatives
  • community

How Does A Housing Co-operative Work?
Members purchase shares amounting to a small percentage of the value of the unit they will occupy.  Initial member purchases are called Share Purchase and is refundable should they leave the co-op.  Only members may be shareholders.  Each member has one vote in the affairs of the co-op, regardless of the value of their shares.

Shareholders elect a Board of Directors from the membership.  The Board assumes responsibility for conducting the affairs of the co-op under the direction of the membership.  However, the Board may, in turn, hire professionals when it is deemed necessary.  These professionals would work under the policy direction of the Board of Directors.

Members pay monthly assessments (housing charges), which cover the payment of principal and interest, taxes, land purchase, maintenance, water and other necessary expenses.  The co-op is non-profit.

Members take an active part in managing and long term planning for the co-op.  Sometimes the services and advice of professionals are required, but the final decisions on all matters rest with the membership because a co-op is a self-directing autonomous legal association.

Do Co-op Members Own Their Homes?
Members do not individually own the units they occupy, because ownership in a continuing housing co-operative is collective, and rests with the entire membership; however, they do have the "right to residency".  Only willful and serious breaches of their lease or the co-op rules, which are voted on by the membership at a general meeting, are cause for membership to be revoked.

How Does Co-operative Housing Differ From Rental Housing?
There are four important differences between renting and co-operative ownership:

  1. Co-operative housing provides "security of tenure".  Members may stay in their units as long as they wish.
  2. Unlike renting, co-op members can exercise control over their housing costs.
  3. Members enjoy many of the financial benefits of legal ownership; for instance, they are eligible for the homeowner grant, which helps to reduce the co-op's property taxes.
  4. Co-operative housing gives all members an equal voice in the planning and continuing management of their co-operative home.  There is no absentee landlord.

What Happens When A Member Leaves The Co-op?
When a member leaves the co-op, the amount of their original share purchase is returned to them; monthly housing charges paid are non-refundable.  Members do not pay any fees for the transfer of their shares, nor is it their responsibility to find someone to acquire their shares.  It should be noted that, even if property values increase, the only refund paid to vacated members is the amount of their original share purchase, without interest.  By not allowing a profit to be made, and based on the principle that good housing is a human right, we ensure that other families will be given the same opportunity to obtain affordable housing.

You can find more information on housing co-ops on the CHF BC (The Co-op Housing Federation of British Columbia)website or the CHF Canada (Co-op Housing Federation of Canada) website.