What is a Co-operative?
Housing co‑operatives provide not-for-profit housing for their members.
The members do not own equity in their housing. If they move, their home is returned to the co‑op, to be offered to another individual or family who needs an affordable home.
Some co‑op households pay a reduced monthly rent (housing charge) geared to their income. Government funds cover the difference between this payment and the co‑op’s full charge. Other households pay the full monthly charge based on cost.
Because co‑ops charge their members only enough to cover costs, repairs, and reserves, they can offer housing that is much more affordable than average private sector rental costs.
Co‑op housing also offers security. Co‑ops are controlled by their members who have a vote in decisions about their housing. There is no outside landlord.
Each housing co‑operative is a legal association, incorporated as a co‑operative. Canada’s housing co‑ops are guided by the international co-op principles:
International Co-operative Principles:
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination
2. Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Housing co-operatives exist for their members’ common benefit. Like other co-operatives they promote individual responsibility, mutual help, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-ops try to embody the ethical values of honesty, openness and concern for others and for the wider society. For more information please see the CHF Canada’s publication of Co-operative Principles.
Windfield Co-op is connected to the Canadian co-operative movement through its membership:
Central Ontario Co-operative Housing Federation (COCHF) is a local co-operative federation made up of housing co-operatives in the Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Brantford area. The federation provides its members services include:
CHF Canada is the nation-wide umbrella organization for co‑op housing and Canada’s link with co‑op housing around the world. CHF Canada provides its member co-ops:
- Leadership and advocacy
- Education and Training
- and other services