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Membership and Democratic Functioning

Who belongs to CHF Canada?

Most of CHF Canada’s members are housing co‑ops. There are 916 member housing co-ops as of September 2021.

Membership in CHF Canada is voluntary.

More than eight out of 10 housing co‑ops outside of Quebec are members of CHF Canada (Quebec’s housing co‑ops are affiliated indirectly, through membership in regional federations).

Other members include provincial or local housing co‑op associations (regional federations), associations of co‑op housing staff, co‑op management companies and sponsoring organizations. Individuals or firms that support CHF Canada’s aims may join as non-voting associate members. CHF Canada has also named a number of individuals who have given special service to CHF Canada as Honorary Life Associates.

Who owns, controls and governs CHF Canada?

CHF Canada is a co‑operative, owned and controlled by its members. It is governed by its Board of Directors, which currently has 16 directors: 10 representing the provinces and territories, one representing the aboriginal community and five directors elected at-large. For the purpose of electing directors, some of Canada’s provinces and territories are combined: Quebec/Nunavut, Alberta/Northwest Territories and British Columbia/Yukon.

Regional representation is aimed at making sure that the concerns of members in every part of Canada can be brought to the Board and to ensure that at least one director is available in each province to support political action, member relations and member recruitment.

How is CHF Canada’s work organized?

CHF Canada’s national work program is delivered from all of its offices. Some offices also deliver services to the co-ops in their province or region.

Where does CHF Canada have offices?

CHF Canada has offices in:

  • Vancouver
  • Regina
  • Ottawa
  • Toronto
  • London, Ontario, and
  • Halifax.

What happens at CHF Canada’s Annual Meeting?

At the Annual Meeting, members set CHF Canada’s policies and elect any Board or Committee members not elected by online voting.

Held at the same time, the Member Education Forum and Co‑operative Management Conference provide dozens of workshops for co‑op members and managers. Participants also learn by networking with other co‑op members and managers from across Canada.

Board and Committees

What does CHF Canada’s Board of Directors do?

The Board sets CHF Canada’s priorities, exercises financial oversight and hires/supervises the Executive Director.

As the result of a member resolution in 2016, directors are transitioning in 2017 to serve three-year terms.

The Board meets at least four times a year, three times in Ottawa and once in the city where the Annual Meeting is held.

Guided by the membership, the Board’s duties include:

  • advising the membership
  • ensuring that CHF Canada acts with integrity and with attention to its best interests
  • securing the future of CHF Canada
  • leading the co‑operative housing movement in Canada, and
  • directing the business of the organization.

Why does CHF Canada’s Board include an Indigenous Director?

In 1996, CHF Canada members increased the size of the Board of Directors from 15 to 16 seats to add a director representing Canada’s Indigenous community. The director, who must be of Indigenous ancestry, is elected by CHF Canada member housing co‑operatives that have more than 10 per cent of their units occupied by persons of Indigenous descent.

About 50 co‑ops in Canada have declared that one of their principle aims is to serve Indigenous people. The Indigenous Director serves a three-year term. The election is conducted by online voting before that year’s annual meeting. The Indigenous Director takes on special responsibilities to liaise with member co-ops that serve Indigenous members, and connect with other Indigenous housing organizations.

How do regions elect their Board representative?

Regional Directors are elected by online voting in the spring, prior to the Annual Meeting.

What does the Executive Committee do?

The Board of Directors appoints six of its members to an Executive Committee to conduct urgent business between Board meetings. These members include the President, Vice President, Treasurer and two to four others (enough to ensure that each of the five regions is represented on the Committee).

What does the Aging in Place Committee do?

The Aging in Place Committee helps guide CHF Canada’s work on aging in place, supporting and identifying the needs of older co-op members.  It is made up of one CHF Canada Board member and five members appointed by CHF Canada’s Board for two-year terms.

What does the Diversity Committee do?

The Diversity Committee advises CHF Canada on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and human rights programming services and needs of housing co-ops and their members and partners. The six members of the Committee are appointed by the Board.

What does the Finance and Audit Committee do?

The Finance and Audit Committee’s role is to watch over CHF Canada’s finances on behalf of the membership. The Committee advises the Board and reports directly to the members. CHF Canada’s Treasurer, another member of CHF Canada’s Board, the Treasurer of the Ontario Region, and two members at-large elected at the AGM serve on the Committee.

What does the Risk Underwriting Fund (RUF) Administration Committee do?

The Risk Underwriting Fund provides loans to member housing co‑ops. These loans can be for new development projects, land acquisition, management assistance, securing a line of credit, energy conversion and retrofit work. The Fund comes from deposits and pledges from members, supporters and CHF Canada. Losses of up to $50,000 can be paid by CHF Canada, with greater losses shared among contributors.

The Board of Directors appoints five people to the Committee. One is from CHF Canada’s Board and one from an outside organization that contributes to the Fund. Of the other three (all from CHF Canada member co-ops), two must have experience in developing housing co‑ops and one in managing housing co‑ops.

Budget and Finance

How much does all this cost?

CHF Canada’s annual budget in 2016 was close to $6.3 million.

Where does CHF Canada get its money?

The main source of revenue for CHF Canada is membership dues (about 75%). Other revenue comes from commercial services, small grants for special projects and earnings on investments, including the National Endowment Fund. Half of the National Endowment Fund earnings is shared among regional federations outside Quebec. There is also an Ontario Endowment Fund.

Other Co-op Housing Sector Organizations, Members and Partners

What are regional federations and what do they do?

Regional federations are local associations of housing co‑ops and other sector organizations.

There are 15 regional federations in the country, including Quebec. Some federations have closed, two federations merged, while in other regions, co‑ops have made different arrangements to ensure that their members receive services. Currently (2017) there is one regional federation in British Columbia, two in Alberta, five in Ontario, six in Quebec and one in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Federations typically earn revenue from membership dues, fees for services, income from investment programs and other commercial services, and transfers from CHF Canada’s Shared Revenue Program.

They offer a range of services, which may include education, newsletters, vacancy listings, consultation, public and government relations, pooling of reserve funds and bulk-buying of products and services.

What are resource groups?

Resource groups offer special expertise to co-ops under development. They help co-ops with the development process and assist in setting up the new co-op’s governance and management systems.

What do staff organizations do?

Staff organizations (or staff associations) represent people who work for housing co‑ops or other co‑op housing organizations. Members may include managers/co-ordinators, administrative staff and maintenance staff. These organizations serve the education, networking and advocacy needs of their members. There are currently five associations that are members of CHF Canada, all in Ontario.

What are co‑op management companies?

Co‑op management companies provide services to housing co‑ops, ranging from property management to bookkeeping. Many of these management companies are affiliated with the co‑op housing sector and some are owned by federations.

What is the relationship between CHF Canada and the Agency for Co‑operative Housing?

In 1998, after the federal government announced its intention to have CMHC withdraw from any role in social housing, CHF Canada proposed an independent non-governmental agency to administer federal programs previously administered by CMHC. Following years of negotiations, the Agency for Co‑operative Housing was incorporated in 2004. It signed an agreement with the federal government to transfer portfolio administration to the Agency, and the transfer took place in 2006. CHF Canada appoints all the directors of the Agency.

What is CHF Canada’s relationship to the broader co‑operative sector?

Nationally, CHF Canada is an active member of Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC) and a member-owner of The Co‑operators group of companies.

Internationally, CHF Canada is an active member of Co-operative Housing International (CHI), the housing sector body of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA).

CHF Canada helps with international development through Rooftops Canada, a charitable organization founded and supported by Canada’s housing co-op movement.

Through these and many other international and regional affiliations, CHF Canada connects its members to the wider co‑op movement, which includes everything from insurance and financial services, to retail, agriculture and child care.

Regional Services and Offices

What about the Manitoba office?

In 1999, Manitoba housing co‑ops decided to receive local services through a Winnipeg office of CHF Canada. CHF Canada’s office in Winnipeg opened in January 2000. Manitoba co‑ops contribute local dues to support local services, in an amount that is similar to what co‑ops that join both CHF Canada and their local federation would pay.

What services does the Toronto office provide?

The Toronto office has staff dedicated to providing advocacy and co-op services to the more than 550 co-ops across Ontario. They coordinate with the five Ontario regional federations to ensure co-ops across the province can access the services and support they need.

What about the Atlantic Region office?

CHF Canada opened its Halifax office in 2002 to provide services to CHF Canada members in the province. In 2015, the Halifax office began serving all Atlantic provinces.

How are Quebec co ops affiliated with CHF Canada?

There are more than 1,200 housing co-op‑s in Quebec – home to about 23,000 households.

An agreement was reached with the Quebec co-op housing sector in the late 1980s that regional federations would provide direct services to co-ops in Quebec. As a result, CHF Canada does not provide services to individual housing co-ops in Quebec.

The province-wide Confédération québécoise des coopératives d’habitation (CQCH) and six  regional  federations are CHF Canada members. A formal partnership agreement, reached in 2003, sets out how CHF Canada and CQCH will consult each other on all issues of mutual concern.