Marine Court Housing Co-op: a strong community focused on the future

When Betty Ewing moved into Marine Court Co-op in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver in 1986, the co-op was already two years old. 

A single parent of two children, Betty was “living in an apartment where the landlord was going to jack up the rent so it would have been impossible for me to pay it.”

She was accepted as a member of Marine Court and moved with her family into a three bedroom unit. When her son moved out, Betty and her daughter downsized to a two bedroom. Now, with both kids on their own and the stairs in the unit getting to be difficult for her, she downsized again to a one bedroom unit without stairs.

“I love it; it’s ideal for me,” Betty says.

The co-op turned 25 in 2009 but didn’t celebrate the anniversary. “It passed without any fanfare because we were getting ready for remediation. But we celebrated retroactively when we had our post-remediation "Mold to Gold" celebration in 2011.”

In the International Year of Co-operatives (IYC), and as CHF BC's IYC Co-op of the Month for November, Marine Court's commitment to its principles embodies the year's slogan, "co-operative enterprises build a better world".

About one-fifth of the original or early members still live in the co-op.

“But we are still acting on the values that the core group had back at the beginning,” says Betty.

“Our co-op has always been well-managed and concerned about being responsible.”  The co-op completed the 2020 Compass and now has a committee working to complete 2020 Vision certification.  The co-op’s operating agreement ends in 2019.

Some members - "gifted gardeners" Betty says - have created beautiful common-area gardens and extensive "guerilla" gardens along the unused CPR tracks which adjoin their property. 

Their hard work also means the co-op's gardens came back quickly after the co-op's remediation. "One would never guess that we were a construction zone for 16 months."

The co-op supports the YES Camp, either with partial sponsorship to their co-op's teens to go to the camp, or even with contributions to the camp in years when they don't have a teen who wants to go. 

In just one of the co-op's green initiatives they have designated two parking spots in their underground garage for bicycle parking and repair, managed by their bicycle committee.

"And yes," Betty says, "we have a bicycle policy!"

“We are also addressing aging in the co-op,” says Betty.  “We had a CHF BC workshop earlier this fall and will be trying to find out what to do after subsidy with another consultation this month.”

The co-op community spans the generations.

“We have a new baby who was just born,” says Betty. “Her parents moved in about a year ago, but the mother’s parents have lived here for a few years; so we have grandparents, parents and the baby all in the co-op.”

“Things ebb and flow, go in cycles in the history of the co-op. Just now the social committee is revitalized, we have a whole new population of young children, and lots of events – it’s been great!”