B.C. co-ops relieved with Ottawa’s housing strategy

Federal government to have a new co-operative housing funding model in place by 2020

Co-ops will see their current operating agreements replaced with new ones in 2020. (Submitted photo)

Co-ops will see their current operating agreements replaced with new ones in 2020. (Submitted photo)

The organization that represents co-op housing in B.C. is one of many groups praising the federal government’s new housing strategy, saying the incoming funding will help keep co-ops alive.

The federal subsidy for co-operative housing across the country is set to expire in 2019, affecting some 35,000-40,000 households in B.C.

“We would have been happier if the details had been provided, but the commitment seems firm,” said Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. “That will end the insecurity and anxiety that all those households have been feeling.”

The strategy, announced on Wednesday, promises $40 billion over 10 years.

READ: Feds plan to spend billions on housing strategy

Not all of the funding, which will be a combination of provincial and federal cash, is new, but it will pay to repair 300,000 affordable homes, help 385,000 homes stay affordable, get 530,000 families into homes they can afford, and provide 300,000 homes with financial assistance through Canada Housing Benefits.

“As long as the feds put in the money that they have committed to under the budget, and as long as the province supplements it with the money they promised during the provincial election campaign, we should be fine,” said Armstrong.

“I know those are two big ifs, but the commitment’s been made publicly so it would be pretty hard for them to back away from it now.”

Welcoming Ottawa’s announcement, Premier John Horgan said he expects to see more “hopeful signs” not just about new housing, but reinvigorating old housing, when more details are released.

Armstrong doubts the new agreement with co-ops, expected in 2020, will look much like the current operating agreements.

“Now, for at least the bulk of the co-ops, it’s the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation writing them a cheque every month and they redistribute it among their members,” he said. But that formula isn’t based on rent or income.

“It is a bit bizarre,” Armstrong said.

The more likely approach, he said, is that the CMHC would send the money directly to the province, which would then add their own subsidy and then deliver it to the co-ops.

The process could be modelled on an existing rent supplement that some co-ops receive through BC Housing.

“B.C. is in a much better position than, say, Ontario, where there isn’t a central coordinating provincial body,” Armstrong said.

BC Housing works as a centralized system that already delivers income assistance to some co-ops, he said, to fill the gap between the 30 per cent of their incomes that renters pay and the co-op’s break-even point.

“Until that permanent solution is in place, the existing agreements will just be extended,” said Armstrong. “The money that is flowing now will continue to flow.”


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