From CHF Canada "Newsbriefs"
October 2006, by Fiona Jackson
When Peter Royce, President of View Court Housing Co-op in Vancouver, saw that the co-op would be mortgage free by June this year, he knew they'd want to be ready.
"It's a very, very special period for co-ops; they are no longer under CMHC's wing, this brings anxieties and opportunities."
The View Court board agreed with him and brought in a professional facilitator to help them prepare for the transition.
After a facilitator-led values exercise that helped members define what was most important to them, they knew that not only did they want to secure their co-op lifestyle, they also wanted to extend their goals and try to fulfill a higher vision of what co-operative living can be.
"It's really great the CHF Canada has initiated the 2020 Vision project, that we keep affordable self-managed housing and also that we keep them non-profit with a social vision not just a simple financial vision. Co-op living either has to be a movement or else it's just an administration."
View Court's membership knew that they could stay out of debt, maintain their building and continue to provide subsidy. But they also made plans to meet two other co-op principles: "co-operation among co-ops" and "concern for community."
To do this they created two $1000 funds, to be available each year. One is a Community Building Fund, eligible to anyone living in a one block radius of the co-op for "activities or projects that make our community a better place to live for us all." The money is available for community-led projects like street parties, arts or cultural events, traffic calming, gardening or street greening.
The other fund is a Strengthening Co-ops Fund, eligible to members of View Court Co-op to fund activities or projects "that strengthen the co-operative movement with an emphasis on housing." Eligible projects would include "organizing public panels, meetings or discussions, preparation and presentation of policy briefs, intervention in municipal, regional provincial or federal policy agendas to further the interests of co-ops, or co-operation with other co-ops on similar activities."
This process has helped the co-op realize a sense of their power to make change. Royce would like to see more. "I'm involved in co-ops because I really think they are a solution to people living alone but not alone... community but also privacy. And they can be shaped to our own particular sets of needs very well."
He's proposing a motion at his co-op's next general meeting asking it to set aside a minimum of $10,000 a year in a reserve fund to help guarantee mortgages to build new co-ops in the province.
"We don't actually have to part with the money, just tie some down and attach a risk."
Royce assures his co-op that they will only commit to this if at least another 10 housing co-ops join them, and their local federation, CHF BC, agrees to take leadership.
"We lack a government program to guarantee the mortgages we need to create more co-ops. Once we were developing our own stock the government would want in.
We need to remind ourselves, this is something very special. I could afford to get other housing, but I have wonderful people around me, it doesn't matter what happens to my income, I have an extraordinarily privileged position in Canada. And because you have a mixed level of income you have a mix of skills and people who need support being supported.
"It's a real model for a caring society. In terms of government policy it's incredibly good bang for the buck." For more about View Court go to: http://viewcourt.vcn.bc.ca
Peter Royce, President of Vancouver's View Court Housing Co-op, believes that 2020 Vision will help keep our co-op housing stock affordable, non-profit and principled. Photo courtesy of CHF BC.
The seven co-operative principles
For more information on co-op principles see: www.chfc.coop
Original article at http://www.chfcanada.coop/eng/pdf/NB/NB2006-10.pdf