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B.C. urged to help fund co-op housing

By Stefania Seccia

Demonstrators protest against high Vancouver housing prices. 

Demonstrators protest against high Vancouver housing prices. REUTERS

A new report before the provincial government strongly suggests including funding support for co-operative housing in the next provincial budget.

Co-ops were built in the 1970s and ’80s and are funded through mortgage agreements with the federal government, but as those come to term over the next decade, it could spell the end for the social housing units allotted in each co-operative complex.

The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, composed of both NDP and Liberal MLAs, released a report Friday to help shape the province’s 2016 budget — expected to be tabled in February. The report unanimously recommends that budget include support for not only co-operatives, but other forms of affordable housing

The committee heard from stakeholders to invest in subsidized housing and form strategic partnerships between all levels of government.

Nearly 4,000 co-op households in B.C. will be affected as federal rent subsidies expire.

Thom Armstrong, Co-operative Housing Federation of BC executive director, said it was good news for low-income co-op members who are at risk of losing their homes as federal rent subsidies end.

The federation, along with its national counterpart, proposed a rent supplement program for low-income co-op households, funded jointly by the federal and provincial governments, which would cost $3 million more this year than B.C. spends supporting low-income co-op members. In five years, the extra cost to help thousands of co-op households as federal subsidies expire would be an additional $11 million annually.

“Thousands of low-income co-op members are hoping that the upcoming budget will include funding for a provincial rent supplement program to replace expiring federal rent subsidies,” Armstrong said in a statement. “Without that assistance, many of them will be looking for new homes in the hottest housing market in Canada.”

Armstrong said he hopes the newly elected federal government will provide more assistance for seniors, people with disabilities, single parents, and new Canadians who need help to keep co-op homes affordable.

“We would like to see a clear commitment in the upcoming Throne Speech that the federal government is ready to partner with provinces to share the cost of provincially delivered rent supplement programs for low-income co-op residents,” he said.

“If all stakeholders and all levels of government work together we can solve the co-op housing crunch and end the fear and anxiety being felt today by some of our most vulnerable members.”