40 Years of Navigating Challenges Together – So Far, So Good…

Workshop Intro:

9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

In this conversation, we will explore our past, present and future with some notable individuals who have lead and are leading CHF BC’s work in uniting, representing and serving BC’s housing co-ops.

Workshop Date:

Workshop Location:

Workshop Type:

Workshop Duration:
0.75 Hrs

Thom Armstrong (CHF BC), Cassia Kantrow (Trout Lake Housing Co-op), Merrilee Robson, and Michelle Cooper Iversen (CHF BC)


Leaky co-ops, expiring operating agreements and leasehold frameworks, to name a few, may be in our rear view mirror but they significantly impacted how we govern and manage ourselves as we face today’s global challenges of climate emergency and systemic inequities.

In this conversation, we will explore our past, present and future with some notable individuals who have lead and are leading CHF BC’s work in uniting, representing and serving BC’s housing co-ops.


Thom Armstrong, CHF BC, is the chief executive officer of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, COHO Management Services Society, and the Community Land Trust Foundation of BC, all headquartered in Vancouver. He has held leadership positions in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and British Columbia during more than 35 years of service in the co-operative housing movement. Thom also chairs the board of Encasa Financial Inc., a registered Investment Fund Manager for the capital reserves of Canada’s community housing sector.

Cassia Kantrow, Trout Lake Housing Co-op, is a Chartered Professional Accountant with over 25 years of experience. Cassia values community wellbeing and the betterment of society. Professionally, she has dedicated her career to working with organizations with social profit goals and values, helping them build strong foundations so they can focus on what they do best: provide services that strengthen community and contribute to the betterment of society. In her volunteer roles, Cassia brings her leadership, knowledge, skills, and experience to the board table in support of tenants rights, and Co-op and non-market housing in Canada. Cassia acts as treasurer for the Co-op Housing Federation of Canada and TRAC (Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre) and is a past president of the Co-op Housing Federation of BC and BC Community Land Trust. She continues to work as a consultant with CHF BC, chairing Zoom general meetings for member coops. When all the work is wrapped up for the day, Cassia enjoys knitting and the company of her orange tabby Kevin Bacon, and chocolate lab, Kaptain. An East Vancouverite from birth, she is a member of Trout Lake Housing Co-op where she chairs their Capital Planning Committee.

Merrilee Robson. When Merrilee Robson was still a university student, she was lucky enough to have the chance to form a non-profit housing co-operative with her neighbours. A few years later, frustrated by the lack of local education and services for housing co-ops, she worked with members of other co-ops to form a new federation in BC. Merrilee was a founding director of CHF BC and served two years as president. On the national level, she was active on the CHF Canada Education Committee and was the first chair of a new Federations committee. Merrilee spent 12 years working in Communications and Government Relations for CHF Canada, including work on the successful campaign to form the Agency for Co-operative Housing. Her first mystery novel, Murder is Uncooperative, is set in a Vancouver housing co-op and her short mystery fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies throughout Canada, the United States and Great Britain.


Michelle Cooper-Iversen, CHF BC, is the Chief Operating Officer of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC (CHF BC’s) Group of Social Purpose Entities. She oversees the day-to-day operations of the team with a focus on fostering a corporate culture that promotes accountability to the international cooperative principles, keeping ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others front and center in the group’s business operations and relationship with staff and community partners.