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Notes from the National Meeting of the

Alliance for Affordable Co-operative Housing


June 12, 2008
CHF Canada AGM, Toronto

Donald Altman, AACH co-chair, welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers.

“Enhanced Assistance” at Toronto Women’s


Beth Wilson and Carrol Downey of Toronto Women’s Housing Co-op explained the
circumstances that led to their “enhanced assistance” package from CMHC in 2007.
After the co-op’s most recent mortgage rollover, subsidy funding was reduced, and
the co-op also found itself facing major capital repairs. When long-time members
suddenly needed assistance, there was no money.

Toronto Women’s started writing letters to everybody, including every member of the
CMHC board, and meeting with all their political representatives. Despite their
efforts, it still came as a surprise when a subsidy funding component was added to
the workout that was being negotiated for the capital repairs. The co-op coordinator
believes that the co-op’s deficit budget helped to demonstrate that the need for
assistance was genuine and urgent.

The enhanced assistance package has helped with the co-op’s immediate needs but
it is temporary and does nothing to address the underlying problem: the years of
subsidy cutbacks. The package requires the co-op to actually reduce the number of
households receiving subsidy from now on and raise its housing charges.

Update on British Columbia Co-ops


Doug Perry of Cana Management Associates in the Vancouver area spoke about a
couple of developments in BC. He noted that CMHC generally expects about 15% to
20% of co-op households to receive RGI assistance, but co-ops traditionally do
better.

Two Vancouver co-ops are now out of their federal operating agreements. One large
co-op that was built as a condominium has retired its mortgage. It has been able to
continue offering reduced housing charges, following the same rules as under the
federal agreement. But eventually it will be facing high costs for remediation. Another
co-op bought out the last years of its mortgage and is offering internally funded
subsidy.

Many “leaky co-ops” in BC needed CMHC workouts to fix their buildings. These
workouts do not take income-tested assistance into account. When a co-op needs to
get a big mortgage for remediation work, it would have to raise housing charges; but
most co-ops can’t raise enough revenue this way, so they need third mortgages or
cash-flow loans. Eventually they generate more revenue just because the market
value of their properties goes up.
But when housing charges go up, there is a bigger gap between those paying
market rent and those who can’t afford market rent, and the workouts offer no
assistance. The workouts require that charges go up to market level and keep rising
as the market goes up. The proportion of households receiving assistance will
therefore inevitably drop, from as high as 50% now to around 20%, although the
need for low-cost housing is still great and co-ops have the capacity to house low-
income people.

CHF Canada’s Political Work


David Granovsky, government relations coordinator for CHF Canada, described the
current campaign. CHF Canada has been lobbying MPs to consider a proposal to,
among other things, create 10,000 more affordable units by increasing subsidy
funding to existing Section 95 co-ops. The sector is asking MPs to write to Monte
Solberg, minister responsible for CMHC, to support the proposal. Nicholas Gazzard,
CHF Canada’s executive director, made presentations to a Senate committee last
fall and to members of the Liberal Party’s social justice caucus committee.

David said a federal/provincial/territorial ministers’ summit meeting on housing is in


the works and will probably be scheduled for October 9-10.

Beth Wilson said she had attended a meeting with MP Bob Rae, organized by CHF
Canada and CHFT. Rae is working on the Liberal platform. Rae was very receptive
to the 10,000 units proposal, which is costed at a modest $36 million.

Several participants questioned whether CHF Canada is doing enough to put the
issue before the public. Doug Perry said in response that federations can do only so
much; individual co-ops have not been doing enough to build alliances in our
communities. We need to work with local community groups such as residents’
associations, with local media, and with neighbouring properties and local
businesses. Co-ops have to be seen as community players if we expect to get
community support.

Merrilee Robson, CHF Canada’s director of communications, spoke about some of


the media appearances that Nicholas Gazzard has made recently. She said CHF
Canada knows there is more work to do in getting a public profile for affordable
housing, but that individual co-ops must contribute also. She noted that CHF
Canada is developing good ties with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the
real estate industry, and local boards of trade. These groups are valuable champions
of affordable housing.

Barbara Czarnecki, co-chair of AACH, closed the session by drawing participants’


attention to the memo of take-home ideas. In particular, if co-ops are looking for a
way to get attention for affordable housing among co-op members and in local
communities, the summit in October provides an opportunity for political action.
AACH in Toronto plans to build a house out of reports on housing and
homelessness.
Alliance for Affordable Co-operative Housing
CHF Canada AGM, June 12, 2008

Thank you for coming! Here are some ideas you can take home.

Do your members understand why your Section 95 co-op has less subsidy funding
to distribute than it used to? Are members paying more than 30% of income for
housing?
 Hold an information session to explain how the federal government has been
cutting your funding.

When does your mortgage roll over? You will have a choice next time: you can
continue under the same terms, or you can attach an addendum to your CMHC
operating agreement. The addendum would remove the “glitch” that led to
disproportionate cuts in subsidy funding at each rollover.
 Ask your Agency relationship manager about the addendum.

When does your operating agreement end? For Section 95 co-ops, the end is 8 to
12 years away. How will you fund subsidies after that?
 It’s not too early to start a conversation in your co-op about your future. The
2020 Vision toolkit is designed to help.

Has your co-op been spending less on maintenance or taking money from capital
reserves to fund subsidies? Do you have high vacancies because you can’t allocate
new subsidies?
 Ask your Agency relationship manager how the Agency can help you with
financial problems.

CHF Canada, regional co-op federations, and AACH are lobbying the federal
government to increase the supply of affordable co-op housing now and preserve it
for the future by extending subsidies after operating agreements end.
 Talk to your local MP and to candidates for the next election. Contact your
federation or AACH for more information.
 Watch for news of a national housing summit in October. AACH is planning to
build a house out of reports on housing and homelessness to mark the
occasion!

The Alliance for Affordable Co-operative Housing brings together co-op members
and staff from across Canada to work for the restoration and continuation of rent-
geared-to-income subsidies. AACH lobbies governments at all levels to fulfill their
responsibilities to low-income Canadians by fully funding existing subsidy
programs and developing new forms of subsidy to replace operating agreements
as they expire. For more information or to join the AACH email list:
aach@rogers.com.