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Notes from the National Meeting of the

Alliance for Affordable Co-operative Housing


May 28, 2009
CHF Canada AGM, Victoria

This year’s AACH meeting focused on the following questions:


How is the recession affecting your members?
Can your co-op keep up with the need for subsidy?

In advance of the meeting, AACH sent a survey about the impact of the
recession to its e-mail list of approximately 70 co-ops across Canada. A report on
the survey results was presented at the meeting, and an updated version will be
attached to these notes.

Donald Altman, AACH co-chair, welcomed everyone and opened the discussion.
At his co-op, Church-Isabella in Toronto, increased demand for subsidy means
the co-op is over its budget for subsidy by 11% and won’t make it to the end of
the year.

Sarah Thrasher of Brighton Yards, Waterloo, said her co-op is no longer


accepting external applicants who need subsidy.

Maureen Foy of Stanley Knowles, Toronto, said the co-op would require a 243%
increase from federal funding if it weren’t using internal subsidy.

Christine Mounsteven, Charles Hastings in Toronto: The co-op has 91 units, 20


on subsidy, and does not accept external applicants who need subsidy. Christine
pointed out that waiting lists are long for long-term-care facilities, so when
seniors or people with disabilities lose subsidy, where will they go? But some in
her co-op are asking why co-op members should have to fund subsidy internally.

Corrie Galloway, Windward, Toronto: Corrie noted that elderly people in co-op
townhouses with stairs are stuck because other co-ops are closed to external
applicants who need subsidy.

Sharyn Wallace, Innisfree, Toronto: Five years ago Innisfree was sending money
back, but now it’s shrinking its pool, has a lot of arrears and is drawing from
investments. At one time 50% of households received subsidy; now it’s 15%, and
members’ contribution toward housing charge is going up.

Michelle Maldonaldo, Swansea Village, Toronto: The co-op has 96 units, 25% on
subsidy, with a long internal waiting list for subsidy. No external applicants who
need subsidy are accepted. The co-op is financially sound overall, and its
operating agreement ends in 2016. She is interested in the long term. Co-ops
AACH May 28, 2009

should not have to fund subsidy internally; we should hold the government
accountable.

Nick Sidor, CHF Canada: The end of subsidy as agreements expire is a huge
issue right across the country. The principal political challenge is communicating
a sense of urgency. MPs say yes, it’s a serious problem – but it’s not happening
tomorrow. Nick said CHF Canada has never been more influential than it is right
now; they can get in to see people. Getting the renovation money was great, but
that’s done now and we have to move on to other challenges.

Maureen asked why CHF Canada is more influential now.

Nick said the organization has followed new strategy and tactics. It sends staff
rather than consultants to meet with politicians; it emphasizes outcomes, not the
number of meetings. CHF has found that taking MPs to visit co-ops is very
effective. It was the first housing organization to put renos and retrofits on the
table, and the proposal was allocated $1 billion in the 2009 budget. After CHF
publicly applauded the budget, it was called to the Prime Minister’s Office, an
invitation that no other housing group got. After CHF representatives complained
that they hadn’t met the minister, a few days later the minister’s office called.

Donald said it would be useful for CHF Canada to get numbers on the impact of
the decline in subsidy, and on how the end of agreements will change those
numbers further.

Corrie commented that subsidy in co-ops is more cost-effective than putting


seniors in long-term care.

Pat Leslie, Hugh Garner, Toronto: Hugh Garner has 181 units, 84 subsidized,
and the waiting list for subsidy has been cut off. The co-op’s agreement ends in
2017, and they are working on the 2020 Vision process.

Rosemary Newman, H.W. Flesher, Vancouver: Currently 50% of households


receive subsidy, but that won’t last until 2020. Rosemary noted that the co-op
sector lobbied for the Agency, and that worked, so maybe lobbying can work
again.

Jane Kansas, Halifax Women’s: Members of the co-op are politically unaware.
Three receive subsidy. Social assistance rules are a problem. A member was
paying more than 60% of income. Jane would like to have her MP tour the co-op.

David Granovsky, CHF Canada, said CHF has already met with Jane’s MP,
Megan Leslie, and found her very supportive.

Edward Nixon, Windmill Line, Toronto: Internal subsidy accounts for 68% of
subsidy funding. The co-op put all the savings from its recent mortgage rollover

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AACH May 28, 2009

into subsidy; this is not a sustainable approach for the long term. We need to be
partners with government in the business of providing non-profit housing.

Rhina Racine of CMHC said she was present as an observer and enjoyed
meeting co-op people face to face.

Merrilee Robson of CHF Canada said she had come to listen and to invite ideas
on getting the message across to the public. David Granovsky said his work at
CHF Canada focuses on lobbying MPs.

Donald reminded David of the need for data to explain the issue. It’s particularly
frustrating to have no way to measure internal subsidy.

Phil Brown, general manager, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, City
of Toronto: Phil spoke about Housing Opportunities Toronto, a new 10-year
strategy for affordable housing. He described an in-situ housing allowance
program that offers $300/month for 18 months but is unfortunately not available
to people in federal co-ops.

Connie Morton, Cawthra Mansions, Toronto: At Cawthra Mansions, 38% of units


receive subsidy. The operating agreement ends in 2013 (it is an ILM). Connie
commented on CMHC’s benchmark of 85% of local market rent as a measure of
“affordability.” She wants MP Olivia Chow to stick to her promise that below-
market co-ops won’t disappear.

Sue Moorhead, CHF BC: Leaky co-ops can’t top up the Subsidy Surplus Fund
with any surpluses because of the mortgage arrangements they have made to
deal with building issues. But housing charges keep rising towards market, so
these co-ops will be short of subsidy. Members’ contribution to housing charges
is getting up to 45% in some co-ops.

Donald wrapped up the session by saying it is clearly difficult to generalize; some


co-ops are doing badly at the moment, some not so badly. The end of
agreements down the road will be a huge problem, and from now until then the
lack of urgency about fixing the problem is disturbing. For many co-ops, internal
subsidy is masking the eventual need as well as the current problem.

Barbara Czarnecki, the other AACH co-chair, will revise the report distributed at
the meeting to incorporate the discussion, and the report will then be sent to the
CHF Canada board of directors.