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Guide to Co-operative Housing

Co-ops come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from collections of townhouses and small buildings with 4 – 12 units to large apartment-style buildings with hundreds of units.

Guide to Co-operative Housing

Housing co-operatives ("co-ops") provide a place for people to live. In 1999 there were over 2,000 housing co-ops in Canada with 111,000 members and combined assets of nearly $5.6 billion.1

Co-ops come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from collections of townhouses and small buildings with 4 – 12 units to large apartment-style buildings with hundreds of units.

What sets co-ops apart from private rental housing is that they are democratic communities where the residents make decisions on how the co-op operates.

Members, the board and staff each have responsibilities to the co-op, as shown in the figure below.

There are two main types of housing co-ops: non-profit and for-profit. While this guide does not look at the differences between the two, many provinces require that housing co-ops operate on a non-profit basis. If the co-op is non-profit, members cannot sell their shares in the co-op. In for-profit housing co-operatives, members own a share of the co-op, but not the individual unit they live in.

Housing co-ops offer several advantages to members:

Affordability Housing co-ops are member-owned and controlled organizations. The monthly housing charges are set by the members to cover the costs of running the co-op.
Security of Tenure A member's right to live in the co-op is protected. A member can live in a co-op for as long as he or she wishes as long as he or she follows the rules (bylaws) of the co-op and pays his or her housing charge (rent) on time.
Community Housing co-ops can also be strong communities, where members actively participate in the business of the co-op. In addition to standard tasks, such as approving the annual budget, members often volunteer with maintenance tasks (e.g. lawn care) and are involved in other community-based projects such as producing a co-op newsletter.
Governance Governance is about the overall direction of the co-op and is the job of directors and members of the co-op. Co-ops are democratically run and each member has a vote. Members elect the board of directors, approve the annual budget and set policy.

This Guide looks at the following legal aspects of co-operative housing:

The information provided in this guide updated in the summer of 2014.

1 Co-operatives in Canada, 1999 Data, Published by the Co-operatives Secretariat, Government of Canada, July 2001

Disclaimer

This guide is intended to provide information on co-operative housing in Canada. However, laws change from time to time in every province and territory. This guide is not intended to provide legal advice. If you require specific legal advice, contact a lawyer.


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