COVID-19 and Ontario housing co-ops
Published March 25, 2020
Updated July 12, 2021
Ontario co-op services staff are here to help you with your questions about co-op operations that are impacted by COVID-19. Please call or email if you have any questions or need help sorting through an issue.
You can also check out our COVID-19 Meeting Resources page for tips and guides for holding electronic board meetings, town halls, and alternate ways to hold a members’ meeting or AGM.
Ontario enters step 3 of reopening
On July 16, Ontario enters step 3 of the reopening plan:
- More retail and service restrictions are relaxed;
- Gathering limits are increased, with small indoor gatherings of 25 permitted and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 allowed;
- Businesses that operate meeting and event spaces are allowed to open with restrictions and capacity limits, and
- Public health measures such as face coverings in indoor public settings and physical distancing remain in force.
The change in gathering limits may make it possible for some co-ops to include an in-person element to meetings or to hold outdoor meetings. For more information on holding co-op meetings see our webpage Meeting resources during COVID-19.
For more information, check out the provincial reopening plan.
During the first declared emergency, the Province introduced temporary changes to the Co-operative Corporations Act. (See S 188, 189, 190 and the accompanying schedule for details.) The changes that allow electronic members meetings are now extended until December 31, 2021 (previously May 31).
For more detailed advice on holding co-op meetings during the pandemic check out our webpage Meeting resources during COVID-19. On this page there is a detailed guide to alternative member meetings to help your co-op plan. Your co-op will need to consider what type of meeting will work best given the situation in your co-op, the rules around meetings and the need to keep your members safe during the pandemic.
Other resources on the meeting page include resources for board meetings and advice on holding information or town hall meetings.
CHF Canada has also produced a model COVID emergency by-law and guide, which can help your co-op hold an electronic meeting while complying with the temporary rules in the Ontario Co-op Act.
Worker income protection benefit (paid sick days)
On April 29, Ontario passed the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act. It will provide all employees covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA), whether full time or part-time, at least three paid sick days for Covid-19 related absences such as vaccination, awaiting test results and quarantine. The sick days will be retroactive to April 19, 2021 and continue until September 25, 2021.
This is much needed protection for the disproportionately low-income workers who did not have paid sick days. For most co-ops and co-op management companies that already offer more than three sick days a year to staff, nothing will change.
It is likely many co-op members will benefit from these sick days. Their employer should pay them as if it is a normal day, and the employer can apply for reimbursement from the government.
For more information on the new system, including the list of COVID-19 related reasons a worker can take a sick day and for information on how employers can apply for reimbursement, see https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-worker-income-protection-benefit.
Help for members in financial distress
Co-ops may have options available to assist members, depending on your funding program. This will help your co-op’s members and can reduce the final draw on the co-op’s own resources.
Housing Services Act
Members who are already subsidized and require a deeper subsidy will receive it effective immediately following the regular RGI rules. Co-ops should follow any specific directives issued by their service manager with respect to COVID-19 and RGI subsidy. Co-op members should contact their co-op office and provide the necessary financial documents.
Members who pay market rents and are experiencing loss or reduction of employment income due to COVID-19 are entitled to benefits under Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
Some co-ops might be able to give out RGI (in-situ) subsidy, upon approval from their service manager, if the co-op is under their annual RGI target numbers.
Co-ops should reach out to their service manager to determine if the co-op can temporarily go over their RGI target to provide further in-situ RGI. By requesting additional subsidy, co-ops can assist some service managers in meeting their provincial standard levels for providing subsidized units in their service area.
If you are not using all of the subsidy that your co-op receives from CMHC on a monthly basis, or if your co-op has a Subsidy Surplus Fund you may want to use these funds to assist more members in your housing co-op. Rules for using these funds will be found in your co-op’s by-laws and your Operating Agreement with CMHC.
Check with your co-op manager or The Agency to find out if your co-op has any unused ILM rent supplements that could be used to assist members in need. As well, your co-op should have a Security of Tenure Fund for members who aren’t receiving a rent supplement but experience a loss of income. Confirm the balance in this fund. If funds allow encourage members who are eligible for the funds to apply. Rules for eligibility will be found in your co-op’s by-laws or your operating agreement with CMHC.
Check your financial statements to determine if your co-op has any unused rent supplements or if your co-op has unused surcharges from higher-income households to assist other households. Co-ops can further encourage their members to contact the Municipal Housing Service Manager to determine the availability of rent supplements to reduce the cost of a member’s housing charge.
Co-ops with no operating agreements
Some co-ops with expired CMHC operating agreements have been receiving subsidies for low-income members under the terms of FCHI-1 and that program will continue until it is replaced by FCHI-2 in September 2020 or later. CHF Canada is pressing CMHC to provide funds to continue those subsidies.
Some co-ops with operating agreements that ended before April 1, 2016 entered into an agreement with the municipal service manager in their area for RGI assistance. Refer to that agreement or check with your service manager to see if additional funds are available.
Co-ops can further encourage their members to contact the Municipal Housing Service Manager to determine the availability of rent supplements to reduce the cost of a member’s housing charge.
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