Housing co-ops can be leaders in growing diversity, equity, and inclusion; not just in individual communities, but widespread in society.
I have lived in my co-op since I was three years old; I know my neighbors intimately, for they are made up of my family members and lifelong family friends. Although we have all lived vastly different lives, coming from all combinations of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, we are united by our need for this community. We all feel the weight of financial uncertainty and hold immense gratitude for the opportunity we have to find affordable homes in a safe, friendly neighborhood.
The truth is that our society is rampant with systemic oppression, prejudice, and inequity. This drastically affects some groups more than others on a basis of privilege, such as individuals who are visible minorities, people with disabilities, and those with discriminated-against religions. In an area so diverse with individuals in all of the above groups, my own mother being physically disabled, my own relatives facing Islamophobia; I understand the nuanced ways in which adversity and financial wellbeing are interlocked. The majority of us in our co-op have specific, overlapping circumstances that prevent us from finding financial freedom. In correlation, we have a special understanding of the importance of open-mindedness and acceptance.
Living in such a heterogeneous neighborhood, it is impossible to cling to prejudices, especially when we all depend on each other. For that is the other aspect of co-ops: we are all the owners of this neighborhood. We participate in community elections, manage our local activities and events, and direct funding for the improvement of our homes. Housing co-ops provide vulnerable groups with a safe place to live, and then give them the power to improve their lives and the lives of their neighbors. That is the true possibility and spirit that co-ops hold.
Due to the nature of societal systemic oppression, many different demographics congregate into housing co-ops. From first- and second-generation immigrants, to refugees, to low-income households; any race, family dynamic, or sexual orientation. We all have a place in our co-op. Giving us the opportunity to self-govern and enhance our living situations shows how housing co-ops can be leaders in growing diversity, equity, and inclusion; not just in individual communities, but widespread in society. Having stable and safe shelter allows us to focus more on the vitally important things in life, like spending time with family and self-improvement. I am so thankful for my incredible support network in my community, and aim to always take the values of my co-op with me into the future; acting as a leader for diversity and inclusion myself!
Maelle is studying computing science at Simon Fraser University