What is a Co-operative?

Co-ops come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from collections of townhouses and small buildings with 4-12 units to large apartment-style buildings with hundreds of units.

What sets co-ops apart from private rental housing is that they are democratic communities where the residents make decisions on how the co-op operates.

Members, the board and staff each have responsibilities to the co-op.

There are two main types of housing co-ops: non-profit and for-profit. Many provinces require that housing co-ops operate on a non-profit basis. If the co-op is non-profit, members cannot sell their shares in the co-op. In for-profit housing co-operatives, members own a share of the co-op, but not the individual unit they live in.

Housing co-ops offer several advantages to members:

  • Affordability

    Housing co-ops are member-owned and controlled organizations. The monthly housing charges are set by the members to cover the costs of running the co-op.

  • Governance

    Governance is about the overall direction of the co-op and is the job of directors and members of the co-op. Co-ops are democratically run and each member has a vote. Members elect the board of directors, approve the annual budget and set policy.

  • Security of Tenure

    A member’s right to live in the co-op is protected. A member can live in a co-op for as long as he or she wishes as long as he or she follows the rules (bylaws) of the co-op and pays his or her housing charge (rent) on time.

  • Community

    Housing co-ops can also be strong communities, where members actively participate in the business of the co-op. In addition to standard tasks, such as approving the annual budget, members often volunteer with maintenance tasks (e.g. lawn care) and are involved in other community-based projects such as producing a co-op newsletter and volunteering on the Social committee to help build community.

Housing co-operatives exist for their members’ common benefit. Like other co-operatives they promote individual responsibility, mutual help, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-ops try to embody the ethical values of honesty, openness and concern for others and for the wider society. Housing co-operatives pursue their aims and give expression to their values by acting on seven principles.

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