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What is a housing co-operative?

A housing co-operative provides its members with not-for-profit housing, in which the members do not own any equity. Co-operatives are able to offer affordable housing as they charge their members only enough to cover costs, repairs, and reserves, rather than being driven by profit. Members are able to contribute to the governance of their co-op by voting on the annual budget, voting on policy and by-law changes, electing or running for the Board of Directors, attending meetings, and being involved in committees and events. Some households pay a reduced housing charge based on their income where the difference between the full housing charge and the reduced payment is paid through government subsidy. In a co-operative, there is no landlord. Instead, the co-op is controlled by its members who vote on decisions about the co-operative.

      ›  7 Principles of Housing Co-ops(CHF)    pdf

How does a co-op work?

A co-op is usually divided into the following basic parts:

      ›  General Members
      ›  Board of Directors
      ›  Officers
      ›  Committee's
      ›  Staff

In order for a co-op to function, its members must assume certain responsibilities. If they do not, the co-op would not be worthy of its name. Of course, there will be some variation in the manner and extent of each member’s contribution, allowing for individual skills, lifestyles, and available time. The success of the co-op depends on members…

      ›  Paying their monthly housing charges on time
      ›  Maintaining their units and yards
      ›  Getting along with neighbours
      ›  Attending General Members’ Meetings
      ›  Working for co-op committees
      ›  Taking part in social projects
      ›  Reporting damage to co-op property promptly to the appropriate person

As individuals, the Board of Directors have no more power or authority than any other member of the co-op, and they are unpaid volunteers. What they do have is more direct access to information and a mandate for group action and decision making. The Board of Directors has the following responsibilities:

      ›  Direct activities according to by-laws
      ›  Elect officers from among themselves
      ›  Establish objectives and approve goals
      ›  Allocate money for expenditures
      ›  Review process, oversee staff
      ›  Arrange for special members meetings
      ›  Shape and approve policies
      ›  Recommend activities
      ›  Determine relationships to other co-operatives and organizations
      ›  Be good employees

Within the Board of Directors, there are four officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

A co-op can create committees as needed, and these committees may be standing or ad-hoc. The committees help the co-op by creating a pool of volunteer labour, distributing the workload, and allowing members to get involved and get to know one another.

Staff is hired by the Board of Directors and delegated the authority to act in the day-to-day administrative operations of the co-op. Positions such as bookkeeper, co-ordinator, and janitor may be created but this is largely depends on the size of the co-op, the amount of work available, and the funds of the co-op. The staff’s responsibilities are to:

      ›  Make complete, impartial, and honest reports to the Board about the operations of the co-op
      ›  Implement the decisions of the Board
      ›  Advise on any policy limitations affecting the operations
      ›  Advise on improved methods and procedures
      ›  Keep accurate records
      ›  Administer the co-op office
      ›  Provide information to committees
      ›  Provide liaison with committees, trades, and service people

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