Co-op twins co-operative values with a beautiful setting

Twin Rainbows Housing Co-op is named for the symbol of the co-op movement  — the rainbow  — and the co-op’s twinned buildings that grace the shore of False Creek next to vibrant Granville Island, an arts and entertainment hub with a public market and artisan shopping.

Leslie and Leo Burdak are original members of Twin Rainbows and moved into the co-op’s west building when it opened in 1981.

Their co-op was quick to sign on as an original member of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC (CHF BC), the federation that now represents and supports 237 housing co-ops across the province, and which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary.

“I was one of the original signers of the incorporation document for CHF BC,” Leo recalls. “I was a member of the interim CHF BC board before incorporation. After that we elected our first operating board of directors; I served as vice-president and then secretary.”

“We were in the prime of life when we came here but we’re retired now,” says Leo. “We’ve lived in the co-op for more than 30 years. Before that we hardly ever lived anywhere for longer than a year.”

In the 1970s the two had tried to get a housing co-op started and had been involved in consumer food co-ops before joining Twin Rainbows.  “We were co-op-oriented anyway so we jumped right in.”

“Members love living at Twin Rainbows,” says Leslie. “We have had an average of two move-outs a year, and that’s over a period of 31 years. There are 23 founding members still living in the co-op — some in their nineties!  As well, six children who grew up in the co-op have moved from the family unit to another unit to start their own households.”

The co-op, with its dedication to offering affordable, non-profit and supportive housing, embodies the slogan of the International Year of Co-operatives, as a “co-operative enterprise that builds a better world.” The co-op is also celebrating the international year with a banner that hangs from the side of their building.

The co-op has four two-bedroom accessible units with an agreement that, when necessary, allows a single person to use the second bedroom to house a live-in assistant, “I’ve heard we were the first co-op in the province to provide accessible units,” Leslie says.

“I’ve learned a great deal,” says Leo. “In 30 years you learn a thing or two. A housing co-op has to function as a tribe. It has to be a group of people who like each other and eat together and shout Christmas carols at one another at the tops of their voices if the occasion is right for it.”

Leo suggests that it’s the informal network in the co-op that makes it work. 

“You know, as a co-op we were interested in organizing things and putting things on paper. But the useful stuff was helping the neighbour out when necessary and breaking bread together.  That’s the tribal organization, the informal organization of the group. If that holds together the formal stuff is academic.”

And Twin Rainbows has held together.

“We’ve kept the social life alive. We had our annual bocce tournament just last weekend. There’s a lot of standing around and chatting, and we always have good food to eat.”

photo credits: building shots courtesy of co-op member Barb Moss.