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What is a housing co-op?

Housing co‑operatives provide not-for-profit housing for their members.

The members do not own equity in their housing. If they move, their home is returned to the co‑op, to be offered to another individual or family who needs an affordable home.

Some co‑op households pay a reduced monthly rent (housing charge) geared to their income. Government funds cover the difference between this payment and the co‑op’s full charge. Other households pay the full monthly charge based on cost.

Because co‑ops charge their members only enough to cover costs, repairs, and reserves, they can offer housing that is much more affordable than average private sector rental costs.

Co‑op housing also offers security. Co‑ops are controlled by their members who have a vote in decisions about their housing. There is no outside landlord.

Each housing co‑operative is a legal association, incorporated as a co‑operative. Canada’s housing co‑ops are guided by international co‑operative principles, adapted for housing co‑op.

If you live in a non-profit housing co‑op you are:

  • A voting member who contributes to the governance of the co‑op
  • Part of a community where neighbours look out for one another
  • Living in housing that will stay affordable because it’s run on a non-profit basis and is never resold
  • Linked through the Canadian Co‑operative Association and the conseil canadien de la coopération with other Canadian co‑operatives active in banking, retail, farming, insurance, day care, health services and more
  • A member of a world-wide movement.

In a housing co‑op members have the right to:

  • Vote on the annual budget, which sets the monthly housing charges and affects the quality of your housing – for example, how much the co‑op will spend on property upkeep
  • Elect a board of directors made up of people who live in your co‑op
  • Run for the board of directors yourself
  • Receive audited financial statements that show how the co‑op spent your money
  • Pay only a limited portion of your income for your housing, if you meet eligibility rules
  • Live there for as long as you like, if you keep to the by-laws agreed on by the co‑op membership

For more information on what is required to create and run a co‑op, the laws and regulations governing co‑ops, and what sets co‑ops apart from other kinds of housing, see the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s “Guide to Co‑op Housing”.