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Housing co-ops respond to new federal housing plan

Published April 12, 2024

Housing co-ops respond to new federal housing plan

Canada’s housing co-ops welcome the federal government’s priority commitment to address the housing crisis, per their housing plan revealed today.

Co-ops well remember the supply response to Canada’s housing crisis coming out of the Second World War. As outlined in the federal housing plan, government investment in non-market supply kickstarted the development of housing co-operatives right across the country. Decades later, these co-ops continue to provide secure and affordable homes to more than a quarter of a million Canadians today. Near the end of that era’s supply push, housing co-operatives accounted for more than 8 percent of all rental starts whereas today, they account for less than 1 percent.  Overall, by the end of the 1990s, the non-market community housing sector, comprising co-op housing, non-profit housing and public housing, accounted for about 5 percent of Canada’s total housing stock. Today, it is less than 4 percent and shrinking.

The shrinking of non-market community housing over the last 25 years is significant. It means less of the kind of housing so many people are looking for today. Because this type of housing operates on a not-for-profit basis, rent increases are predictable and raised to the extent needed to keep buildings in good condition, and residents do not need to worry about “renovictions” or a landlord taking back their unit.

As a recent Deloitte study found, there is a direct connection between investment in community housing and productivity. When Canada stopped investing in non-market community housing at scale, economic productivity weakened. This was driven by weak labour mobility, depressed business investment and the prioritization of household income towards housing, rather than training and skills building.  As such, growing the proportion of Canada’s community housing stock to the OECD average of 7 percent would boost productivity, resulting in an increase of a non-inflationary $67 billion – $136 billion in GDP.

We recognize and support the important federal commitments detailed in today’s plan to ensure co-op housing is part of the supply response to this generation’s housing crisis, like the Co-operative Housing Development Program and the Canada Rental Protection Fund. Co-ops are ready and able to get new developments and acquisitions underway as soon as these programs launch. This is needed as soon as possible to ensure the upcoming construction season isn’t lost. 

We also appreciate the increase to the Affordable Housing Fund, and the recognition of rental assistance, through the Federal Community Housing Initiative. The latter is a low-cost, high-value program, and it allows co-ops to operate on a mixed-income basis.  We need to make it a permanent feature of federal housing commitments.

Missing from plan is a much-needed increase in the investment levels under the Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy. We hope to see this included in Budget 2024.

With new co-operative homes acquired and developed through the initial programs outlined in the plan, we look forward to a deepening partnership with the federal government to rapidly grow these programs. We all need to ensure co-operative housing, along with non-profit community housing, is developed at the scale required to solve the housing crisis and grow the economy, in a way which ensures everyone can access both. 

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