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Could adding to existing co-ops ease Vancouver’s housing crisis?


A proposal coming to Vancouver city council this week is looking at building more affordable housing by expanding to co-ops.

As Vancouver renters continue to pay the highest prices in the country, Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung says co-ops could be a potential source of new supply.

“The really bright spot about co-op homes, unlike when you’re building market rental, for example, is that the affordability improves over time,” she told CTV News.

Low- and middle-income residents buy shares in the co-op but don’t have any equity or ownership stake in the property. However, they get to vote on policies like pets and parking priority, much like a strata, and can’t be evicted by owners looking to sell.

Kirby-Yung said there are about 7,000 units in Vancouver co-ops in Vancouver, with around 3,700 owned by the city.

She said many are on their last legs.

Groups representing co-ops said they want the city to look at fixing and expanding those properties.

On average, a co-op in Vancouver has around 56 units according to the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C.

"A lot of the sites we're looking at could easily triple the number of co-op homes on the land that's there,” said CEO Thom Armstrong.

Many of Vancouver’s co-ops were built decades ago with help from federal funding that has since dried up. The federal government stopped building co-ops in the early 1990s and wait lists have only grown for what is now an aging supply.

Armstrong said many were built with “low density”, meaning there could be room to fit more units onto existing co-op land.

He also told CTV news investing in co-ops makes sense long-term since they’re non-profits.

“A housing co-op doesn’t have to deliver a return to a shareholder, it just needs to provide housing to its members at cost,” Armstrong said.

“That means over time the cost of a home in an affordable housing co-op drops dramatically relative to the market.”

It's a sentiment echoed by Kirby-Yung.

“As the cost of building and the mortgages are paid down, that affordability improves so as you’re building those units today they become the most affordable homes of the future,” she said.

With older building's leases up for renewal, and no federal funding for co-ops, Kriby-Yung's motion asks the city to find partners to help support building thi s particular type of new housing.

The motion will come to council on Wednesday. Top Stories

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