A video from the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. highlights the traits of co-op housing. Screenshot, CHFBC video

Cumberland on the lookout for possible co-op housing sites

Provincial federation wants co-op housing projects in Central, North Island

Cumberland is looking for some land for potential co-operative housing.

At the Oct. 28 meeting of council, Coun. Jesse Ketler brought forward a motion to direct staff to identify possible sites.

This decision followed a brief presentation about co-op housing from Ketler, who said she had recently been in discussion with the executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. (CHFBC).

“A lot of people don’t really know what co-op housing is,” she said.

In a written report to council, Ketler noted how Cumberland has very low vacancy rates and increasing rental costs over the last 10 years. Her report notes there are roughly 1,200 units on Vancouver Island, but all of these are in the Victoria region. CHFBC is hoping to add co-operative housing in Central and North Island communities.

As part of her presentation, Ketler played a brief introductory video from CHFBC.

“Co-ops are communities where members know and support each other,” the video states.

The housing model is founded around the seven principles of co-operation, economy, education, community, voluntary, democracy and independence. They can take the form of non-profits co-ops, like the majority in B.C., or of equity models. Non-profit co-ops operate at cost, which helps keep them affordable.

RELATED STORY: Federation hopes to bring co-op housing to Comox Valley

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley ranked fifth most unaffordable housing market in B.C.

While most people in B.C. own homes or rent, co-ops are seen as providing a different model that offers benefits such as affordability, community involvement and security. Most are concentrated in the Lower Mainland or southern Vancouver Island, with more than 260 non-profit co-ops representing at least 15,000 homes. These include different types of homes, such as townhomes or apartments, with complexes ranging from a small number of units to several hundred.

“I think one of the best parts about it is that they are affordable,” Ketler said.

She also cited the security of tenure as an additional benefit.

“You don’t have to have a housing agreement. They are just perpetually available to that person that’s a part of that co-op until they decide not to live there anymore. You can go through all stages of life,” she said. “It’s a really great model.”

In her report, Ketler listed off steps necessary should the Village be interested in exploring a co-op housing project. The first item on the list is to draw up a list of available land for CHFBC to consider, which was the motion before council. This would be followed by later steps such as a memorandum of understanding and a feasibility study.

“Really, they’re just looking for us to put up some land,” she said.

Ketler’s colleagues were receptive to the idea of co-operative housing. Coun. Vickey Brown described the model as a “great fit for Cumberland” while Mayor Leslie Baird said, “It’s a step in the right direction, and I really do think we need something like this in the community.”


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