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A housing co-op is an organization incorporated under the Cooperative Association Act that provides housing to its members. Members purchase a share to join and elect directors to govern the co-op. Most housing co-ops in BC are non-profit co-ops with a rental (not equity) model of housing, though there are also a few equity housing co-ops here too. Co-op members do not have a landlord and monthly rents are called "housing charges". Co-ops are inspired and guided by the seven international co-op principles in everything they do. Find out more about life in a housing co-op.
Members of non-profit housing co-ops come from a variety of backgrounds and have a range of incomes making all co-ops "mixed-income communities." Some members pay a full housing charge. Other members with lower incomes may pay less based on a model of providing rent geared to income or RGI, and sometimes with a rental subsidy for those with an existing agreement with government.
No. Non-profit housing co-ops are mixed income communities with homes for people with a range of income levels. Generally, co-ops house people of moderate and low incomes.
A monthly housing charge is like rent. It’s what the members pay each month to live in the co-op. Housing charges are usually set to the amount the co-op needs to break even, after paying all its operating expenses and setting money aside for long-term capital repairs. In most co-ops members approve changes to the housing charges by passing an ordinary resolution at a general meeting. Although co-ops created with government funding programs were often able to provide adjusted housing charges or subsidies for lower income members, with the end of co-ops' original mortgages, those agreements have also come to an end. However, because of lobbying efforts, some co-ops now have the option to get extensions of subsidies and governments are speaking optimistically about continued opportunities after 2020. See more in What is subsidy?      
Non-profit housing co-ops that still receive support from the government (federal or provincial) to help house some lower-income members sometimes call that support a subsidy or rent supplement. Housing charges for subsidized units are adjusted to fit with household income ("rent-geared-to-income" or "RGI") usually based on calculating with the formula that 30% (or a another percentage) of the member's income on rent (or housing charges) is the most someone should have to pay. Subsidy (or a rent supplement) makes up the difference between what the member pays and the co-op’s normal ("full" or break-even) housing charge. However, the amount of subsidy is limited and just because someone is eligible does not mean the co-op will have the subsidy to help. When co-op agreements with government end, subsidies can end. Because of lobbying efforts, some co-ops now have the option to get extensions of subsidies and governments are speaking optimistically about continued opportunities after 2020. Learn more about co-op operating programs here co-op funding programs.
Housing co-ops are independent organizations and each one has its own application process. CHF BC does not accept applications for housing co-ops. You can find listings for all co-ops at Find A Co-op. You can filter for co-ops with open waiting lists and other settings, and then read each co-op's instructions for how to apply. Some co-ops will ask you to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), so they can mail you an application. Others will provide a downloadable application or a link to an external website where you can find an application. Still others will ask you to come to an orientation meeting to get an application. You may also want to consider applying to a new Community Land Trust (CLT) co-op community and you can learn about which of those co-ops are accepting applications through cltrust.ca.
To become a member of a co-op, you must purchase a share. Shares also stand as the co-op's working capital. Each share gives a member a vote in general meetings. Shares usually range from $1,000 to $7,000 (a typical share purchase is around $2,000). Some co-ops permit jointly held shares (held between two or three members in a household); others prefer a one-member-per-household model. A share is a little bit like a damage deposit in that you get the money back when you leave the co-op, unless the unit has been damaged, or you owe money to the co-op, in which case the share is used to cover repair costs or settle the debt. Non-profit housing co-ops do not return share purchases with interest. Please note that in most co-ops, you need to give two months' notice prior to moving out. CHF BC administers two programs to help people in special need with no-interest loans to afford the initial share purchase once they've been accepted to join a housing co-op: the Disability Trust and the Domestic Violence Relief Fund.
Most non-profit housing co-ops are (or were) funded by government programs. The programs have different rules, and three of those programs set income ceilings for members on move-in. Section 61 co-ops, Homes BC co-ops and a few Index-Linked Mortgage (ILM) co-ops have income ceilings, as do most co-ops built since 2010 in the City of Vancouver. The dollar amount of the income ceiling varies. Please note that co-ops that are built on leased land may also see income ceilings now or in the future as part of their lease agreements.
Because co-op waiting lists are long, the wait to meet with a co-op for an interview after applying could range from at least three months to three years or longer. Some co-ops are not even accepting applications for their waiting lists. Those hoping to pay less than full housing charges (and qualify for a subsidy) will usually have a longer wait than those able to pay the full charges. You may also want to consider applying to a new Community Land Trust (CLT) co-op community and you can learn about which of those co-ops are accepting applications through cltrust.ca.
No. CHF BC does not play a role in the application or member selection process of housing co-ops. Admission to a housing co-op is determined by each co-op. CHF BC does provide an online directory of co-ops as a public information service.