COVID-19: three provincial changes every co-op needs to know
Published October 14, 2020
Ontario recently announced 1 new bill and 2 new regulations that every co-op needs to know:
- Bill 204: Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, 2020
- Regulation: Employee COVID-19 screening provisions
- Regulation: extension of temporary suspension period (board and member meetings)
BILL 204 – HELPING TENANTS AND SMALL BUSINESSES ACT, 2020
The Province of Ontario passed Bill 204 – Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, 2020 on October 1. The legislation includes a rent freeze under the Residential Tenancies Act for 2021.
The Bill does not make changes to the Co-operative Corporations Act so the rent freeze does not apply to most households in housing co-ops. Housing charges for non-profit housing co-ops are set by a resolution of the members. This allows members and boards to collectively determine whether a housing charge increase is in the best interest of the community.
But, Housing Services Act (HSA) co-ops are partially included in the rent freeze.
Bill 204 says that all households receiving rent-geared-to-income assistance (RGI) in HSA housing are included in the rent freeze. That means all households in HSA co-ops that receive RGI assistance are included in the freeze, but the market units in the co-op are not.
The rent freeze, or change in the rent increase guideline, will also affect HSA co-op budgets. The Market Rent Index will now be zero which will freeze your co-op’s indexed benchmark rents and impact the calculation of your co-op’s operating subsidy. The co-op should not lose money from the net impact of these funding changes.
For more information on the rent freeze or how it might impact your co-op, please contact your local federation or Ontario co-op services staff.
REGULATION: EMPLOYEE SCREENING PROVISIONS
The Province of Ontario passed Regulation 364/20 on September 25, 2020. It requires workplaces to implement a COVID-19 screening process for any workers and essential visitors entering the work environment. The board and management should work together on a plan for implementing this regulation.
For the purposes of this regulation, workers are staff including students, contractors or volunteers that conduct business or related activities. Essential visitors are individuals providing a service in the establishment who are not employees or patrons of the establishment. (For example delivery, maintenance, contract workers) It does not include emergency workers or first responders entering for emergency purposes.
Workers should be screened at the beginning of the day and essential visitors should be screened when they arrive.
The Ministry of Health has developed a downloadable COVID-19 Screening Tool. The tool contains a set of questions that must be asked before workers or essential visitors are permitted to enter the workplace.
If an individual does not pass the screening they should not be allowed to enter the workplace and should be advised to self-isolate, call their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario.
Further information on this regulation can be found here: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200364
REGULATION: PROVINCE EXTENDS TEMPORARY SUSPENSION PERIOD
After the state of emergency was lifted on July 24, 2020 in Ontario, the temporary provisions to the Co-operative Corporations Act that allowed co-ops to call and hold virtual meetings was set to expire on November 21, 2020. CHF Canada was worried that housing co-ops would not be allowed to meet in person as they used to upon the expiry of the temporary provisions. So we reached out to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services to request a further extension.
On October 1, 2020, the Province of Ontario passed Regulation 543/20 under the Co-operative Corporations Act. This regulation extends the temporary amendments to allow housing co-ops to call and hold meetings virtually until May 31, 2021.
This means that from now until May 31, 2021 housing co-ops in Ontario can:
- hold meetings by telephonic or electronic means;
- cast votes by mail, telephonic or electronic means as directed by the Chair of the meeting; and
- Board meetings can be held by telephonic or electronic means, even if it is not included in the co-op’s by-laws
YOUR CO-OP’S AGM
Please note that there has not been a further extension for holding your co-op’s AGM. If your AGM was to be held between March 17 and July 24, 2020 it must now be held no later than October 22, 2020. If your AGM was scheduled to be held between July 25 and August 24, 2020 it must now be held no later than November 21, 2020.
For further information please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r20543 or https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-changes-meetings-and-business-operations .
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