British Columbia

Canada renewing its commitment to co-op housing with major investment, federal minister says

The federal government will invest about $1.5 billion to build new co-op housing in Canada, the largest investment in co-op housing in 30 years, Federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen said Tuesday in Vancouver.

New investment in co-op housing largest in 30 years: Ahmed Hussen

Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of housing and diversity and inclusion at the Kaslo Gardens Housing Co-Operative where 85 units were repaired in 2020. The minister says Ottawa is making its largest investment in co-op housing in 30 years. (CBC)

The federal government will invest about $1.5 billion to build new co-op housing in Canada, the largest investment in co-op housing in 30 years, Federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen said Tuesday in Vancouver.

Hussen says the government expects to build 6,000 new co-operative housing units across Canada including in Vancouver.

"We will be working with the co-op housing Federation of Canada and many other members of the co-op sector to design the new Co-operative Housing Development Program to build new, affordable and energy-efficient and accessible homes."

A housing co-op is an association that provides housing for resident members who work together to run it as a non-profit business and a community. Tenants act like shareholders in maintaining and paying for their housing.

As part of the co-op housing allotment, the government is proposing to reallocate $500 million from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, to launch a new program that will expand co-op housing in Canada.

"Homes like this will ensure that families don't have to worry about making the impossible choice between paying for their rent or putting food on the table," said Hussen. 

85 co-op homes repaired in Vancouver 

The minister pointed to repairs on 85 homes for low-income individuals and families at the Kaslo Gardens Housing Co-operative located in East Vancouver, as evidence of the government's commitment.

The upgrades which began in the spring of 2018 and ended in November of 2020 saw $700,000 spent on upgrades, including the replacement of more than 650 windows, decks, cedar fences, as well as attic remediation, according to Megan Humphrey, the former chair of the Kaslo Gardens Housing Co-operative.

The co-op was built in 1989 and had begun to to fail due to age and excessive moisture accumulation.

Progress but still not enough, advocates say

The improvements at Kaslo Gardens and more investment in co-ops is welcome news for those in the industry hoping to scale up affordable housing in B.C.'s red-hot housing market.

"A lot of those buildings are coming to the end of their useful lives and needing that investment," said Thom Armstrong, the executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C.

Armstrong says he welcomes the expansion of co-op housing, saying it's "great news to see a reinvestment" but it's not enough to address the housing affordability problem.

"We could use all 6,000 of those homes here in B.C., and still not solve the housing crisis that we're facing," said Armstrong.

However, he says he is hopeful the allocation will inspire more land and dollars to be dedicated to affordable housing from federal and municipal governments.

"I'm hoping that it's a bit of a foothold into a new explosion of new co-op development. And that we'll be able to persuade the government to see that it's a great start, but not nearly enough to address the real problem."

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