Burnaby residents living in federally subsidized housing co operatives are
facing an uncertain future as the co ops grapple with a possible post subsidy
Close to one third of residents living in every co op rely on federal
subsidies through social housing agreements, and most agreements are expiring
in Burnaby over the next seven years. There is no plan in place for their
Catherine Porter, president of Burnaby's Pine Ridge Housing Co operative,
says many members have approached her about having to leave the neighbourhood
when their co op's agreement reaches maturity in 2017.
"I moved in as a single parent in the early 80s, when rents and mortgage
rates were at stratospheric levels in Vancouver and I needed to find a more
affordable option," Catherine told the Burnaby NOW. "Several members have
expressed their concerns to me about the loss of subsidy and their inability to
pay the housing charges without it."
Burnaby has the largest concentration of non profit housing co ops and co op
units in the New West and Tri Cities region. It's second only to Vancouver in
the number of housing co op units in the Lower Mainland, which has 107 co ops
and 5,765 units.
The city is home to 26 non profit housing co operatives, with 1,900 units.
Eleven of those are under the section 95 federal program, with operating
agreements coming to an end in the next seven years. Another 12 are also under
federal programs, many also expiring during the same time period. Every co
operative housing model is different, depending on how each was set up.
One thing they do have in common, is one third of the residents who would
otherwise struggle with the growing costs of housing, are able to make rent
thanks to the rent geared to income subsidy available to assist lower income
"Twenty eight per cent of our current members require assistance to pay the
housing charge," Catherine said. "The co op charges members only what is
required to properly run operations and maintain the property. That's the
Wholesale NFL Jerseys affordability factor. There
isn't any profit built into the charges. Even so, the co op is aging and costs
Glen Porter, Catherine's husband, moved in with her family later on and the
couple does not rely on the subsidy. He said the real fear is watching
neighbours have to leave the co op just because they can't afford it when the
"That's the worst possible scenario," he said. "If they did have to leave
the co op, what we would call an economic eviction, would be a process. If they
couldn't pay the housing charge, then technically they would become homeless.
If they can't find another place, the government of the day and the provincial
government of the day would be in a position of having to find housing for
Scott Jackson, spokesperson for the Co operative Housing Federation of
Canada, said his organization is putting together a campaign to raise awareness
about this issue.
"We're saying the government needs to keep its money on the table, and not
pull itself completely out of housing," he said. "We need to keep this great
legacy of affordable housing . going. At the very least, we shouldn't be
rolling backwards making it harder for people in the most vulnerable
situations. These are seniors, new Canadians, people on fixed incomes. These
people are very seriously concerned and stressed about where they're Cheap NFL Jerseys going to be living and how they're
going to afford a home in a few years."
Jackson said the federal government, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation (CMHC) handling the mortgages for each co op, have been fairly
quiet on the future of co operatives.
"They haven't been public with any of that, they haven't released any of
their discoveries what they've found looking at this problem," he said. "The
general line of thinking is we're hearing from the CMHC . is they're still
coming out of their mortgages and they're going to be OK. They (co ops) still
have lots of money."
Jackson noted that many of the co ops have been operating for 25 to 30
years, and many require upgrades, which do not come free. will lose the
assistance that currently makes their home affordable," he added. won't get
However, the federal government maintains Wholesale
NFL Jerseys that housing co operatives will have some money leftover after
the operating agreements and mortgages mature despite the outcry.
Although Minister of State for Social Development Candice Bergen did not
answer any of the Burnaby NOW's questions, a ministry spokesperson provided
"Our government has made historic investments in affordable housing," Andrew
McGrath, Ministry of State and Social Development spokesperson, wrote in an
email to the NOW. "Budget 2013 allocated $1.25 billion towards renewing the
investment in affordable housing agreements."
A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation spokesperson echoed McGrath's
"At the end of these agreements, the government will have fulfilled its
commitment and funding will end," said Karine J. LeBlanc. "At the same time,
the mortgages on the properties will generally be paid off, allowing many
housing groups to continue to provide affordable housing and to be free to
operate their projects as they see fit.
Burnaby council recently added its voice with the Federation of Canadian
Municipalities calling on the government to develop a long term plan to fix
Canada's housing crunch by working with local communities.
As for Catherine, she said co ops planning a future without a subsidy have
already had to limit the intake of new members whose income is too low to pay
the full housing charge.
"This is quite alien to us as our inclination has always been to serve the
community by providing affordable housing to all," she said. "It also does not
address the issue of current members who won't be able to pay the charges."
Housing co op snapshot in Burnaby and abroad:
The Norman Bethune Co operative Housing Association with 24 units will have
the first federal operating agreement to expire in Burnaby in 2015.
The largest Burnaby housing co op is 115 Place Housing Association with 244
units. Its federal operating agreement ends in 2017.