COVID-19 and Ontario housing co-ops
Published March 25, 2020
Updated March 4, 2022
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 easing COVID restrictions
On March 1st Ontario continued to ease restrictions put in place to deal with the Omicron wave. The change that has received the most publicity is the removal of mandatory proof of vaccination to enter certain premises. Businesses, including co-ops, can implement their own policy if they choose. For example, CHF Canada offices have protocols that involve proof of vaccination, daily screening, social distancing, mask-wearing and cleaning.
Other changes include the size of gatherings allowed. Organized events and social gatherings of up to 50 people are now allowed indoors. This means that many co-ops will have the option of returning to in-person meetings if they will be under 50. Or, using a hybrid meeting option (some people in person and some people virtually) if more than 50 people are attending. Please see Member meetings below and Meeting resources during COVID-19 for more information on holding meetings.
Workplaces are no longer required to do active screening of employees each day if they are working on site. The new requirement is for passive screening such as posting a notice with screening information and asking employees not to enter if they do not meet the screening requirements. Employers are still allowed to use an active screening process if they choose.
Please note: As Ontario relaxes measures, there may be more variety in rules across the province as public health units may introduce local measures. Co-ops should ensure that they follow local public health directives.
For the complete list of COVID measures check out Ontario Regulation Reg. 364/20: RULES FOR AREAS AT STEP 3 AND AT THE ROADMAP EXIT STEP.
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 September 30, 2022 (previously December 31,2021).
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.
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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