How Housing Co-ops Create Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Communities

  9 March 2023

Housing co-operatives are leaders in creating safe communities that honor different cultural backgrounds and practices as well as in fostering harmonious relationships between diverse people.
Essay by Eden Lauren, 2022 Aaron Webster Memorial Scholarship recipient.

Housing co-operatives are invested in creating a community with strong relationships between neighbors and in working together to manage our co-op. Our diverse co-op members all have equal decision making power on how our community and homes are governed. For example, I recommended that someone does a land acknowledgement before every general and board meeting. My suggestion was welcomed and now before every meeting we acknowledge the privilege we have to come together on unceded lands.

All of the diverse co-op members’ opinions and principles are equally valued and heard within our community, which makes housing co-operatives distinct compared to public housing. Overall, housing co-operatives are leaders in creating safe communities that honor different cultural backgrounds and practices as well as in fostering harmonious relationships between diverse people.

Numerous tenants volunteered to regularly sanitize our buildings so that we could keep everyone safe. We made a point to actively check in on each other, especially our elder tenants, to ensure that everyone was taking care of themselves during isolated times and was able to access their exigencies. Housing co-operatives are unique compared to public housing because we focus on working together to uphold the diverse members of our community.

Eden Lauren and her mother.
Eden and her mother.

The housing co-operative came together during the COVID-19 pandemic to support our community through this stressful time. Everyone donated food and basic necessities to the social committee so we could create an emergency hamper for anyone in our co-op community who may be struggling to afford and access some of their basic needs.

Co-operatives foster a unique community environment that welcomes numerous groups of people. Through collaboration with different tenants in the co-operative we have worked together to foster a safe space so that everyone in the community feels comfortable with sharing their various cultural backgrounds and practices. For example, when the Indigenous children in residential schools started to be recovered from unmarked graves, the China Creek Housing Co-operative came together to organize a grieving and honoring ceremony. The fellow Indigenous tenets held a smudging (traditional practice of burning sage) and prayer circle for the whole community to join. I sang a traditional song on my drum and an Elder facilitated a peace pipe ceremony. Various committees banded together to support the community during this hard time.

For example the social committee provided food and beverages, the newsletter committee advertised the ceremony and the Board organized the time and place. The fellow Indigenous tenets also shared their different traditional medicines, healing practices and food. Everyone played a part in creating a safe and inclusive space for the co-operative community. Co-operative housing is special because it creates a diverse community where everyone can work together to ensure we all feel respectfully included and safe.

Housing co-operatives are innovative in building culturally safe communities that honor diverse groups of people. Co-op communities promote amicable relationships between neighbors and focus on supporting our community members. Overall, housing co-operatives are advanced for their ability to uphold equitable and all-encompassing self governing communities between different populaces.

Eden is pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.

Lean more about CHF BC’s Scholarship ProgramApplications for the 2023 Scholarships are open until March 31, 2023.