What Co-ops Want
Many non-profit housing providers and housing co-ops in Toronto and across Canada have long-term operating agreements with the federal government. Through these agreements, non-profits and co-ops receive subsidy funding from the federal government to provide low and modest income residents with rent-geared-to-income (RGI) affordable housing.
Operating agreements are coming to an end as non-profits and co-ops retire their respective mortgages.
The end of operating agreements means not only the end of mortgages, but also the end of subsidy funding for RGI affordable housing. While housing providers will not be paying down a mortgage after the operating agreement ends, they will have capital costs to contend with as most buildings are more than 30 years old.
The end of agreements raises big questions about the future affordability of these homes for low and modest income individuals and families, given the competing demand to meet capital requirements on aging buildings. With more than 80,000 households on the waiting list for social housing in Toronto alone, we can’t afford to lose a single unit of affordable housing.
There is no doubt that there will be growing pressure exerted on the federal government to continue the flow of funding after the end of the operating agreements. There are numerous stakeholders in this effort. Federally funded co-ops, aboriginal housing, provinces, and municipalities all have housing built under federal programs. We need to work together to ensure that the federal government continues its investment in affordable co-op and non-profit housing.
The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF) is working nationally to advance to this issue, while the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto (CHFT) is organizing at the local level in the Toronto region.
Arguments will be made that many non-profit providers should be able to find the resources necessary to replace the government funding from their mortgage savings. However, it is clear from most analyses that mortgage savings alone will not allow many providers to keep present ratios of RGI assistance, refinance for future needs and keep break even housing charges at existing levels of affordability, all at the same time.
After the end of the operating agreements, new partnerships can be developed between government and housing providers. Through these partnerships and programs, we have an opportunity to not only ensure the continued provision of affordable housing but also to increase the capacity of the co-op and non-profit sectors to actually increase the number of affordable homes across Canada.
- Maintain and expand the capacity of co-ops to provide RGI assistance to members and prospective members.
- Maintain adequate funding to ensure the long-term viability of our housing assets.
- Adapt our co-ops’ physical and operational capacities to respond to our members’ and prospective members’ needs.
Step 1: Continue to invest the funds allocated in the agreements in the co-operative and non-profit housing sector to ensure that these housing providers can continue to provide RGI assistance to low and modest income individuals and families.
Step 2: Adopt a plan to expand investment in co-operative and non-profit housing to maximize the capacity of these housing providers to provide affordable homes. Co-ops and non-profits are part of the solution to Canada’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis. We can play a bigger role in partnership with government.
Any program providing housing assistance needs to:
- Be designed in collaboration with co-ops and non-profits to ensure that programs work efficiently and effectively.
- Be easily accessible to independent, community based co-ops and non-profits.
- Respect the unique nature of co-ops as membership-run communities.