Since 1989, the Friendship Housing Co-operative in Sidney has provided affordable and market housing for a wide variety of people.
Located on Fifth Street, the Friendship Housing Co-Op is a collection of units ranging in size from two to four bedrooms. Fiona Jackson, communications director with the Co-operative Housing Foundation of B.C. says it’s one of 262 co-ops in the province and the 34 on Vancouver Island. Most of those, she continued, are located throughout Greater Victoria.
Most housing co-ops, explained Jackson, are occupied by a mixed population of people. Some are seniors, others are single parents and still more are adults. Some can afford to pay market rents and other cannot — so some of the units in each co-op similar to Friendship in Sidney are subsidized. This mix, she said, helped create a diverse community living in each complex.
As members of a housing co-op, people get security of tenure, meaning they can stay as long as they pay their housing charge and follow the rules.
Residents are also expected to take part on the local board of directors, helping create a better sense of ownership. In the case of Friendship, it is a non-profit business, managed by its members.
Yet, said Jackson, the future of funding sources to ensure subsidized units, or more attainable housing, is up in the air as federal funding dries up.
“Housing co-ops used to be funded by the federal government, between 1970 and 1990, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation,” Jackson explained. “Today, a lot of co-ops in B.C. and across Canada are coming to an end of those federal funding agreements.”
In Friendship’s case, Jackson said their funding agreement is not scheduled to run out until 2023. For others, those agreements are ending now and in the coming years.
“In B.C. between now and 2017, 1,500 co-op households face a crisis,” she said. “By 2020, it’ll be up to 3,000 in this province alone.”
Jackson said many of those households include the disabled, seniors, single parents and people on a fixed income. Losing rent subsidies could force some tough decisions.
The CHF BC, said Jackson, is running a campaign called You Hold The Key – Fix the Co-Op Housing Crunch. She said the organization has been talking to provincial cabinet ministers and other politicians, hoping to curb the loss of many of the subsidies. They are seeking a provincially-funded rent supplement program for low income co-op members.
“Having affordable rental housing is the key.”
To learn more about co-op housing in B.C. and the You Hold the Key campaign, go to www.chf.bc.ca.