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Your Co-op and the CMHC Survey: Federal Community Housing Initiative, Phase 2

Published November 13, 2018

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Housing co-ops with federally-administered operating agreements will soon receive a survey from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

CMHC wants your co-op’s input on the program that will continue subsidies to low-income co-op households from 2020 to 2028. This program is called the Federal Community Housing Initiative, Phase 2 (FCHI-2).

CHF Canada urges co-ops to reply to the survey. CMHC needs to hear the co-op point of view.

Over the last number of years, we’ve heard from co-ops about the challenges they faced leading up to the end of their operating agreement. In this note, we have laid out some issues that co-ops and local federations have raised as well as our recommendation that FCHI-2 be delivered as a rent supplement.

Key Issues: what we’ve heard from co-ops

Based on what we’ve heard from co-ops, here are some of the key issues to consider while completing the survey.

Minimum requirements to qualify for FCHI-2

  • We want the new program to subsidize low-income units without a burdensome regulatory and administrative system.
  • Creating a program with complex oversight and regulations is unnecessary. It hinders our ability to be effective communities and to invest in our buildings for the future.
  • Any oversight and administration should focus on the new subsidy program and not the general management of the co-op or buildings.
  • One minimum requirement is asking co-ops to ensure that 30%-60% of units are subsidized. This can be difficult for co-ops to maintain. Depending on the rate of turnover, co-ops may need time to reach the minimum threshold of 30% if they are currently housing a lower percentage of subsidized households. We want to make sure co-ops are still eligible for FCHI-2 when they’re ramping up the households they support.

Transition to the FCHI-2 program

  • The government should, at a minimum, maintain the same level of support for the same number of households.
  • We should never have to choose between continuing subsidies to households and saving money to invest in repairs of our aging buildings.
  • Co-ops whose operating agreements expired before April 2016 were not offered agreement extensions. Many of these co-ops want to provide homes to low-income members, but need the government to provide subsidies to these households for their housing charges. CMHC should re-enroll these co-ops in FCHI-2 so more vulnerable Canadians can have a place to live.

Long-term sustainability

  • Co-ops need government to play an ongoing role in providing support to low-income households. We do not want subsidies to be phased out after 2028.
  • Co-ops can take care of the bricks and mortar, but we need government to take care of the people through continued support to vulnerable co-op members.

The Solution: rent supplements

The FCHI-2 program should be delivered as a rent supplement:

  • It’s simple. Private sector landlords have been accessing rent supplement programs for years because they support low-income households and respect the autonomy of the housing provider. The autonomy of housing co-ops is important to our members. A rent supplement program would increase autonomy and require less intensive oversight.
  • It’s substantive. A rent supplement can adjust over time if a co-op member loses a job or finds themselves in financial difficulty, supporting co-op members while they get back on their feet.
  • It’s efficient. A rent supplement program focuses on what the government is trying to do: support low-income co-op households. The less money government spends on administration and regulation, the more money they can spend on supporting vulnerable families. And rent supplements are easy to administer, meaning fewer headaches for co-ops.
  • Many co-ops already have experience with rent supplements and they are the best way forward to continue supporting low-income co-op members.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Douglas Wong
Program Manager, Policy and Government Relations

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