COVID-19 Pandemic
ADVICE

Every business and community in BC is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and housing co-ops are no exception. CHF BC members have been asking us for advice on a range of issues. You will find our answers and resources below.

COVID-19 General Guidance | Helping Members in Financial Distress | Resources for meetings during COVID-19 | Concern for Community
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COVID-19 General Guidance

Find information and links to some great general resources for your community at this time.

CHF BC event cancellations

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According to the federal government, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Some transmit easily from person to person while others do not. COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans. Those with COVID-19 may have few to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19; they include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia in both lungs. In severe cases, infection can lead to death.
Question:
There is a lot of fear regarding COVID-19 and I am wondering what your guidance is regarding routine repairs and inspections with the co-op or outside contractors going into members' homes, especially with repair people who go all over the community and enhance the risk of community spread.

Answer:
Our advice at the moment is that co-ops should do whatever they can to be part of the solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means limiting contact among people and practising social distancing to the greatest extent possible.

We canvassed the views of maintenance services including our own at COHO and the staff at BC Housing. They are providing maintenance and repair services to occupied homes only in emergency situations. All regular or routine maintenance is being restricted to vacant homes and common areas (interior and exterior). We think this is prudent in the circumstances and important for the protection of co-op members, staff and tradespeople. Of course there are always situations that call for judgement to be exercised. If, for example, a home is vacant because a member is away on vacation, it may be possible to have work done safely in the home while the member is away. That’s a decision for the board to make.

The board is charged with a special responsibility to act at all times in the best interests of the co-op. This sometimes calls for tough choices to be made. In the current situation, it is difficult for us to imagine that it’s in the co-op’s best interests to proceed with business as usual.

CHF BC is working hard to maintain services during the COVID-19 pandemic while placing the highest priority on the health and safety of our staff, members and many partners.  Here’s the latest on what you can expect from our Group Buying programs as we work to “flatten the curve” and deliver value for your membership dues.

Appliances:
Trail Appliances has now closed all retail stores and outlets to protect the safety of their staff and clients. They are still able to provide curbside delivery but cannot offer haul-away service at this time. If your co-op has an emergency request, please contact Jamie Dosanjh at jdosanjh@trailappliances.com. All other requests should go to aptreplacement@trailappliances.com.

Cabinets and Countertops:
Danube Kitchens, our cabinet and countertops partner on the Mainland, will still provide service on request, while respecting health and safety guidelines. If you have a request, please contact cabinets@chf.bc.ca.

Flooring:
Our flooring partners in the Lower Mainland, CD Contract and K&A Flooring, are both available for service on request, while respecting health and safety guidelines. On Vancouver Island, the Island Flooring Centre is closed but available on request. For any flooring requests, please contact Chrissy Miller at flooring@chf.bc.ca.

Maintenance Supplies:
Our partner RONA stores are still open and you can shop until 6:00 p.m. You can also shop online. If you need more information or to request a service, please contact Brad LeGrow at brad.legrow@rona.ca.

Telecom Program:
Our telecom program partner TELUS has let us know that their technicians will not enter units to upgrade wiring to fibre-optic. Regular internet speed upgrades and repair appointments are still happening with modifications for safety. You can visit TELUS.com/covid19 for the most up to date information on how they are supporting clients in this uncertain time. And for any members with questions, please contact us at telecom@chf.bc.ca.

Waste Management:
Our Waste and Recycling partners Waste Connections on the Mainland and GFL Environmental on the Island continue to provide all services with no interruption.

If you have additional questions about any of our Group Buying programs, including ways we can help your co-op access group buying services at this time, please contact Arnold Sang at asang@chf.bc.ca.


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Helping Members in Financial Distress

Here you will find resources to help your co-op and its members deal with financial distress brought on by the challenge of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helping members in financial distress

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BC Housing is now accepting applications for the BC Temporary Rent Supplement Program (BC-TRS).  Some housing co-ops and their members are eligible to apply.  More information will be available from BC Housing soon.

The BC-TRS will cover partial rent or housing charge payments for eligible tenants or co-op members for three months (April, May and June).  It is available for households with qualifying incomes who have experienced a drop of at least 25% in monthly household employment income due to COVID-19.  You can find information on the program and a complete list of eligibility criteria HERE.

Members of housing co-ops can receive the benefit if they meet all eligibility criteria and are currently paying the co-op’s maximum housing charge. The co-op cannot be receiving any ongoing operating funding from any level of government.  For now, this means that members of Section 61 (1973-1978) co-ops, Section 95 (1979-1985) co-ops, any co-op with an expired CMHC operating agreement, and any co-op developed outside of government programs are eligible.  Members of co-ops funded provincially (e.g. Homes BC) are not eligible.  We are seeking confirmation of eligibility for members of ILM (1986-2002) co-ops.

The BC-TRS application process involves two steps. A member begins the process by providing proof of address, monthly housing charge, income (and income loss) and contact information for the co-op (including the co-op’s email address).  BC Housing will review the application and send an email to the co-op asking for confirmation of the details in the member’s application.  The co-op will need to provide its contact and banking information to receive payment by direct deposit.  The payment is made directly to the co-op, not to the member.

Payments are not retroactive.  You must apply in April to receive payment for all three months.  Members applying in May will receive payments for two months.

CHF BC will be seeking additional clarification on eligibility criteria from BC Housing.  We strongly encourage members and co-ops who think they may be eligible for assistance based on the information provided so far to apply without delay using the BC Housing application form.

We welcome questions from members at members@chf.bc.ca.

Housing co-ops and their members are understandably worried about the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. CHF BC and our allies at Housing Central have been following the news closely to keep track of the support being offered by various levels of government to housing co-ops and their members. Here are two charts:
  1. A summary of the support announced so far by the provincial and federal governments for housing co-ops and non-profit societies
  2. A summary of the support announced so far by the provincial and federal governments for for members of housing co-ops and tenants of non-profit housing societies. Items of particular relevance to housing co-ops or co-op members are shaded.  Links to government sources have been included where available.
This is a rapidly changing environment and some programs have been announced before details of eligibility and/or application procedures are available. We will continue to monitor government announcements and update the linked charts regularly to bring you the latest information.  Please check back frequently for more news, and let us know if you spot something that we have missed. As always, we welcome your questions at members@chf.bc.ca.
We are all dealing with unprecedented challenges navigating the COVID-19 outbreak and deciding how best to support and communicate with members.  No one has everything figured out, but we are all in this together and together we will find the best way forward.

On March 24, CHF BC issued a memo to all member co-ops called Helping Members in Financial Distress during COVID-19.  Thank you for your positive response to that memo.  We believe it sets out a sound approach, and this will add to that advice.

If you haven’t communicated with your members about April 1 housing charges, now is the time to do that.  We recommend something very simple.

First, we recommend that you send a short notice to all members similar to this sample notice (MS Word file — will download). The purpose of the memo is to advise members that:

  1. If their income has not been directly affected by COVID-19, they should pay their housing charge in full on April 1 using whatever method you normally have in place, or
  2. If they have experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19 that will affect their ability to pay the April 1 housing charge, they need to share that information with you right away.
Once you have determined the number of members who have suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19 you will be able to take the next steps to:
  1. Help those members tap into any new sources of financial assistance available from provincial and federal governments, and
  2. Determine more precisely the impact of COVID-19 on the co-op’s revenue from monthly housing charges.

CHF BC will publish a summary of the assistance available from all levels of government later today.  We will also publish additional information this week to help you make agreements with members to defer housing charge payments if needed.

We are living through a very volatile situation.  Things are changing daily, if not hourly, and we will be monitoring developments carefully to ensure that our response is relevant and appropriate.  By acting responsibly now, we will be laying the foundation for the weeks and months to come.

Don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions at members@chf.bc.ca and please stay safe.


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Resources for meetings during COVID-19

In response to questions from members we have developed resources that offer the latest guidance to help co-ops.

Here is some information about co-op meetings during the social isolation requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic.

General advice on meetings

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Some co-ops have been worried that they won’t be able to hold their Annual General Meeting (AGM) by the deadline set out in section 143 (2) of the Cooperative Association Act.  In normal circumstances a co-op must hold an AGM within four months of its fiscal year end.

We offered some advice on March 18 to address this issue, but the province’s Corporate Registry has just made things even easier.  Co-ops have been given an automatic extension of the deadline for holding an AGM, effective March 31, 2020.  Here is the Corporate Registry Bulletin confirming this information.

Between now and September 30, 2020 you will not need to ask the Registry’s permission to postpone the date of your AGM, but you will have to advise your members if you decide to schedule the AGM after the usual deadline.  This is a very helpful convenience.  There is some ambiguity in the Registry’s announcement and follow-up correspondence, and for the moment it is not clear whether an automatic delay can extend beyond September 30.  We will try to clear this up in the next few days, but for now you can safely assume that any AGM can be delayed at least until September 30 as long as you advise your members of your decision.

You may still decide that you want to hold a “virtual” AGM rather than delay, and in that case please refer to our March 18 memo and contact us at members@chf.bc.ca for more information.

Dear CHF BC:
We need to call a members’ meeting to approve new housing charges but it’s not safe to meet in person at the moment.  Can we poll the members by email to see if they support the proposed increase?

Answer:
You can poll the members by email to find out how they feel about the proposed increase, but that’s not enough to make a binding decision.  In some co-ops the board sets the housing charges.  In others, new housing charges must be approved by ordinary resolution at a members’ meeting called for that purpose.  An email poll is not a meeting, so you’ll need to consider other options.

For more information on meetings, see CHF BC’s advice on meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Concern for Community

Housing co-ops are resilient communities. Their members believe in the values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. Here are some ways we continue to demonstrate that during this crisis.

Let’s show concern for community!