COVID-19 and Ontario housing co-ops
Published March 25, 2020
Updated March 31, 2020
We will add to this page as more information for housing co-ops in Ontario becomes available.
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.
$200-million social services boost
The Province of Ontario has announced an investment of $200-million for social services to help Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding will also boost the emergency assistance already offered to people with limited income, assets and credit who are experiencing a financial crisis, who aren’t already on Ontario Works, to cover needs such as food, rent and child care.
Those who are on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program can get a discretionary boost in funding to pay for increased needs because of COVID-19. Individuals are able to apply on a new government website or to contact their case worker if they are already receiving OW or ODSP.
Finally, the funding will also be used to support municipalities and organizations that administer social services, such as food banks, charities, shelters, emergency services and non-profits. Funds will be distributed through the province’s municipal service managers.
Ontario announces shutdown of non-essential services
Ontario has announced the shutdown of all non-essential services across the province in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. It is important to note that community housing, including housing co-ops, are considered essential services. As such, co-op offices can still operate and serve co-op members. Please see our Housing Co-ops and COVID-19 page for suggestions on changes co-ops should consider in how to provide services during this crisis.
For Ontario co-ops our advice remains that you should not have members meetings at this time.
Ontario’s declaration of a state of emergency prohibits gatherings of more than 5 people. Even if your meeting will be fewer than 5 people, it will be difficult to maintain the proper social distancing between people.
The Co-operative Corporations Act speaks to the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The co-op can hold an AGM until 15 months after the date of the last AGM (see Co-op Act S.77). An example: if your last AGM was March 26, 2019, your co-op can hold the 2020 AGM by June 26, 2020.
The members can receive the audited financial statements and appoint the auditor at a later date when you are able to hold your AGM safely. If you generally elect you directors at your AGM, your current board will remain in office until their successors are elected at the AGM when you are able to hold it. (see Co-op Act S.90(3)).
What about budget meetings?
The same advice holds. Don’t hold the meeting at this time.
If the co-op cannot hold its general members meeting to approve the budget, the co-op can submit the budget or subsidy estimate with a memo to the regulator (municipal service manager or The Agency). The memo can state that the members have not approved the budget at the time of submission due to the COVID 19 pandemic measures. Of course the board of directors must approve the budget before it is submitted to the regulator. You may want to consider holding an electronic board meeting to approve the budget. (see Board meetings)
You should also check with your regulator. We are aware of municipal service managers that have agreed to a later submission of the budget and expect that service managers will be flexible in these circumstances.
Even though board meetings will be smaller than members meetings, during the pandemic you should consider not holding in-person board meetings. For Ontario housing co-ops, directors can hold electronic board meetings through such means as telephone conferencing or computer video chat. This is the preferred way to conduct necessary board business during this time.
If your co-op has adopted CHF Canada Ontario Region’s model Organizational By-law, 2015, you are good to go as this issue is covered under Schedule C, Director’s Ethical Conduct Agreement that your directors have signed. If you have a previous issued model Organization By-law, the co-op needs all directors to be in agreement to hold electronic board meetings.
To enact directives from board polls, please refer to Article 11.4 of the new model Organizational By-law, 2015.
In scheduling an electronic meeting, CHF Canada Ontario co-op services recommends dealing with high priority agenda items and limiting meetings to no more than one hour in length. During the pandemic, it would be a good idea for the board to schedule short weekly or bi-weekly electronic meetings to discuss urgent issues.
For more information on electronic meetings and what is and isn’t allowed, check out our Fact Sheet on Using electronic processes for meetings (Ontario) on the Member meetings page on our resource centre.
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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