Marigold Housing Co-op: Successful co-op living for young and old

In 1978 when Elaine Sheridan arrived in Victoria from Toronto with her eight-year-old daughter, she had a job and a rented townhouse. But then the owner decided to turn her home into a condo and she had to move.

“I didn’t have money to buy a condo. And it was so difficult to find a place in Victoria that I could afford that was decent, near a school and near transportation.” 

Elaine had never heard of housing co-ops, but when a co-worker suggested she consider applying to one she took the advice.

“I put in my application to Marigold and two weeks later, the same day that I heard my townhouse had a buyer — in the same mail delivery — there was a notice from Marigold saying there was a unit available and would I take a look. I’d have lived in a closet I was so desperate!”

But when Elaine saw the co-op and unit she was thrilled. “It was so nice, close to school, and where I could get a bus to work.”

Marigold Housing Co-op is a 36-year-old 86-unit co-op in Victoria. Its well-kept grounds and gardens are the envy of many. As Elaine notes, the co-op is in walking distance to local schools – from kindergarten to college – local amenities, and a network of walking trails. In a collective arrangement with the strata across the street, the co-op co-owns an outdoor swimming pool with paid pool attendants. The co-op’s children spend many happy hours each summer at the pool.

As CHF BC's October Co-op of the Month for the International Year of Co-operatives (IYC), Marigold members give the top five reasons they love their co-op. They are also ways the co-op fulfils the spirit of the IYC slogan, “co-operative enterprises build a better world”:

  1. Sense of community and belonging
  2. Friendships and considerate members
  3. Proximity and access to amenities and community areas
  4. Upkeep and maintenance of buildings
  5. Beautifully kept grounds and gardens

In addition to 71 two-floor townhouses with basements and private yards, the co-op has a small apartment block of 15 “maisonettes,” many of which are one-level suites, great for members who need to downsize.  The co-op’s operating agreement ends in 2016 but Laural Roberts, a member of the co-op's finance committee, says the co-op is well prepared with a long-term plan.

Although not an original member, Elaine Sheridan is one of the few from the early days still in the co-op. “I never expected to be here this long!  When I moved in I thought ‘this is great but I’ll probably only be here for a few years’.” 

She observes that the co-op has gotten "even better over the years. The board has got so many things that needed doing in really good shape. We recycle everything! I’ve heard many people say that Marigold is one of the best co-ops they’ve ever seen.”

Elaine turned 78 this year and finds the co-op to be supportive as she ages. “I feel very safe here because I know my neighbours and if I’m not around for a while they come and see if I’m okay. When I lived in an apartment building, you could have dropped dead and no one would have known it. It’s a good place to live when you’re young and a good place to live when you’re old.”

 

Photo key: 

1. Marigold's "maisonettes" 2. Marigold's co-owned swimming pool 3. Ed Bermingham and Rosemary Bermingham, members of Marigold's gardening committee. 4. Marigold's playground. 5. Patrick Langford, Marigold's maintenance worker with the co-op's recycling system.