Can a Co-op Model Help Calgary Seniors Realize their Housing Dreams?

Oct. 18 Aging in Community workshop to explore tangible options

Prairie Sky Cohousing, Calgary, Alberta

Many seniors experience anguish about the most appropriate place to age. They yearn for places that are safe, and affordable while also offering a healthy mix of independence and community.

Can the co-operative model help them realize their community and housing dreams? Some, including those organizing an Oct. 18 Aging in Community workshop in Calgary, say yes.

A key attractor in the co-operative model is the control it offers seniors as they become members of an entity that develops housing that will serve their needs. Not only do they have a community to work with on realizing their dreams, but the model ensures they have a voice in both the development of the housing and its operations going forward.

The co-operative approach is also rich with possibility in having government play a different role in solving seniors’ housing issues — as an enabler of alternative solutions through hosting and supporting exploratory discussions.

 “The (strength) in the co-operative model is that it can be built using the assets of the folks that are going to take advantage of it,” says Sarah Arthurs, a co-organizer of the upcoming workshop through her work with the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative (CPRI). The Initiative recognizes the co-op model as a promising path to combating poverty. 

A community gathering at Calgary's Prairie Sky Cohousing

A community gathering at Calgary’s Prairie Sky Cohousing, Alberta’s first cohousing project.

In Calgary, investigating the co-operative model as a solution for seniors’ housing is timely given the rezoning taking place in a number of inner-city communities. With this rezoning, the value of these properties is increasing significantly, prompting heightened interest from developers and challenges with some current home-owners who struggle to pay the increased taxes.

Imagine connecting the senior residents of these properties to the development of housing options that would still allow them their independence, but cut their costs and bring them into the middle of a new kind of supportive community.

The Oct. 18 workshop will review four types of housing options that could be developed using the co-operative model:

The workshop will also review using the co-operative model to provide the services seniors want and require as they age in community. For instance, house-cleaning, transportation, snow-shoveling and shopping support services might be arranged for using the co-op model.

The event will also include an introduction to resources that can support the development of a co-operative, including building developers, co-op developers and financial support representatives.

As a community social worker with the City of Calgary, John Mungham probably hears more about aging in place issues than anyone. In his role, John works with various groups to identify options for seniors. He is excited about the co-op model as one of a number of promising solutions.

“We need to have (different) options for seniors, because everybody is going to be coming from different backgrounds. The exciting thing about this upcoming workshop is that we’re bringing people together to look at some of these options,” John says.

Sarah says her hope for the workshop is that it yields a cohort of people who wish to continue working together on developing co-operatives to create one of these housing options and/or seniors’ services in Calgary.

To learn more about the workshop, or to register, visit the Aging in Community event page.

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