Quebec Manor preserves the past and plans for the future

Quebec Manor Housing Co-op is a 32-unit housing co-op in a 100-year-old heritage building at Quebec Street and 7th Avenue in Vancouver.  In 2012, the co-op will not only celebrate the International Year of Co-operatives, it will also celebrate the centenary of its building.  Quebec Manor member Flora Purcell is helping plan the celebration.

“One hundred years ago the area of Mount Pleasant near Main and Broadway was emerging as one of the first urban villages outside of downtown Vancouver.  Quebec Manor was built as a luxury apartment hotel.”

The hotel then became a rental building that by 1979 was run down and slum-like. When the landlord asked for a 67% rent increase the tenants fought it. With the aid of the late Shirley Schmid of Columbia Housing and the support of the federal Section 95 housing co-op program, they formed a co-op that bought and renovated the building in 1980. The co-op later purchased the lot next door to add a yard, garden and parking space.

“Our co-op- now provides a home for a diverse community of families, artists, educators and social activists who are able to stay in the community,” says Purcell.

Quebec Manor was also one of CHF BC’s 39 founding member co-ops that put up money to get the federation started in 1982. 

The co-op celebrates the centenary of its heritage building this year and is inviting other Vancouver co-ops in heritage buildings to join the celebration in a kind of “heritage co-op cluster”.

Purcell says the members also hope to raise awareness of how saving built heritage to create affordable homes is important and sustainable.  

“We have proved that by co-operating it can be done. And even in the absence of government support we should look for ways to accomplish this goal.”

Quebec Manor is a co-operative enterprise that builds a better world by saving a heritage building and providing affordable housing. But the co-op’s involvement spreads to the wider community too. Its members are active in the neighbourhood community garden and are currently working with neighbours and the City on a community plan. Several members recently gave a presentation to the mayor and council of Vancouver outlining their views on appropriate development in the neighbourhood.

And the co-op members are keen to do more:

“If we believe in something, even if we don’t have government support, maybe we have to step up together to create new housing or preserve heritage,” Purcell says.

Quebec Manor members have another idea that could have appeal for housing co-op members across the country. Purcell explains:

“Co-op home swapping! We’d like to be able to stay at another co-op and see how they do it, and other co-op members could stay at our co-op and come to our meetings. It could be an opportunity for vacations – ‘co-op-cations’ - but also a way to learn from inside of a co-op community.”

Purcell says the co-op’s mortgage and operating agreement with the federal government end in 2016 and the co-op is getting ready with the 2020 Compass program.  

“We are taking our bearings, aligning our values, and setting our sights on building a better world.”

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