New Day Dawning over Co-operative Housing

Reflections on the National Housing Strategy

If Adam Vaughan was standing on a street corner with a sandwich board hanging over his shoulders it would say Get with the Program; a New Day is Dawning instead of saying The End of the World is Nigh.  Indeed, there was an existential urgency in his words, a call to action I haven’t heard recently from politicians.

Adam Vaughan was presenting the National Housing Strategy in a webinar for the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada: 40 billion dollars and 50,000 units of community housing all of which could be co-operative housing if Adam Vaughan had his way.

For those of us who see co-ops, of all kinds, as an under-utilized model for supporting community prosperity, businesses with social accountability, self-organizing communities and engaged citizens – this was like manna from heaven.

What makes co-operative housing unique and why does Adam like it so much? According to Cooperative Housing Federation BC:

There are many kinds of co-operatives: food co-ops, co-op daycares, credit unions, retail co-ops, worker co-ops and housing co-ops. Any group of people can form a co-operative. The members own the co-operative and the co-operative provides a service they need. Housing co-operatives provide housing.  Since the 1930s, Canadians have been building and living in housing co-ops. The people who live in the housing are the co-op’s members. They elect, from among themselves, a board of directors to manage the business of the co-op.  Each member has one vote. Members work together to keep their housing well-managed and affordable.

One of the pieces that makes co-op housing shine for Adam is that they are self-directed; co-ops are a model housing which is managed or stewarded by the members of the co-operative.  Co-op housing can be purpose built, for example  specifically for seniors or individuals with disabilities.  So, housing can be used to support better social outcomes.  Co-op housing can be built to be energy efficient, indeed this will be included in the criteria for future projects.

Adam began and ended his presentation in Canada’s unfolding story of Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people.  He referenced long houses as a model of community housing with restorative powers, enabling the support of multigenerational communities, acting as an extension of health care and education systems and supporting generative community.

He ended by saying that co-operative housing is the best tool in our tool kit to solve multiple challenges facing Indigenous people in the areas of health, education, empowerment and trauma. There is the possibility of building housing co-ops around Indigenous values such as ceremony and connection with the land.

Adam’s call out to the co-operative housing community was to get ready to build, to make sure that we have the capacity to translate this opportunity into new co-operative housing projects providing folk with stable housing and connected neighbours.

National Housing Strategy:  A Place to Call Home 

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