Who are the people who live in Co-ops?
We are 250,000 Canadians, members of nearly 2,200 non-profit housing cooperatives located in all parts of Canada. Our cooperatives are as small as three dwellings and as large as 70. Most are between 40 and 80 homes, apartments and town homes.
We like living in co-operatives. We are satisfied with our housing, much more satisfied than those who rent privately or who live in other kinds of social housing. Our turnover rates are about half of those in the private rental market. In fact, about 1/3 of renters say they would move into a housing co-operative if they could. More than 40,000 Canadian households are on our waiting lists.
We are members, not tenants. We manage our housing democratically, electing a Board of Directors from among our residents. Every one of us has an equal voice in decisions about our housing community. All of us volunteer on the committees that do our co-operative's work.
We are unique. Only co-operatives are committed to empowering ordinary Canadians like us to manage our housing. We learn skills that can help us break the poverty cycle, enabling us to reduce our dependence on government support.
Co-operatives are not-for-profit. We have no equity investments in our homes. We reinvest all operating surpluses in our housing.
We do not live in low income ghettos; co-ops are mixed-income communities. Just over half our nearly 90,000 households receive rent-geared to-income (RGI) assistance from the federal or provincial government. In federally sponsored co-operatives, we provide assistance to more than twice as many households as required by our operating agreements with CMHC, at no extra cost to taxpayers.
We are not wealthy. In 1989, when statistics were last analyzed, our average annual household income was about $26,000; about 2/3 of us had annual household incomes of less than $30,000. We are twice as likely as other Canadian families to have incomes below the poverty line.
Our operating costs are below those to all other forms of assisted housing. The value of the time we contribute to housing activities was estimated by CMHC in 1992 at from $905 to $1,430 per household per year. Because we spend less than other housing providers and reinvest our operating surpluses, we keep our housing charges low.
We are single parent families, mostly led by women. Our co-ops have more than twice as many single parent families as are found in the general population. The majority of our members are women and 10% of our homes are occupied by women over 55 years of age.
We are Canadians with disabilities and other special needs. Co-ops emphasize our abilities, not our disabilities.
We are a self-help movement. Our national and regional co-operative housing federations supply adult education, training courses and reference material to help us manage our housing. As members of Byrne Creek Housing Co-op we are required to fulfill our financial responsibilities, attend general meetings, abide by our rules and regulations, and contribute time and effort towards the successful running of the Co-op. This is a personal commitment each of us makes when we join the Co-op and we are honour-bound to fulfill that commitment. Anyone not wishing to contribute has the rightful choice of seeking residence in non-cooperative housing.