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Q&A For Applicants
 
Questions and Answers for Applicants

FOR MEMBERSHIP AND OCCUPANCY IN A HOUSING CO-OPERATIVE

1. What is a housing co-operative?

A co-operative is a group of people who form a corporation so as to provide a service for themselves. In a housing co-op the service that is provided is affordable housing, and the residents of the co-operative are the members of the corporation.

The members elect a Board of Directors from among themselves. The members authorize this Board to conduct the day-to-day business of the co-operative in a manner that satisfies all of the requirements of its Charter, Bylaws, Agreements and Policies.

The Co-operative Principles:

  • open and voluntary membership
  • return of surplus to members
  • democratic control
  • co-operative education
  • limited interest on invested capital
  • co-operation among co-operatives

2. Who owns the co-operative? Who is the landlord?

The co-op is the owner and the only landlord. That means that each member -- by virtue of membership and voting rights in the business of the corporation -- is a part-owner of the project. However, the members do not own their individual units. They cannot buy or sell their units. They may not sublet. But they are guaranteed exclusive right to occupy their unit as long as they continue to respect the Charter, Bylaws, Agreements and Policies of the co-operative.

3. How is a co-op different from other rental housing?

There are important differences. Some of them have to do with the way the project is financed and some with the way it operates.

The co-ops assisted by Homestarts are developed with some financial assistance from the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario. They operate on a non-profit or break-even basis. There is no provision for profit for an outside owner or landlord, so the income received from "rent" needs only be adequate to cover the co-op's real expenses.

The care that members take of their units and the careful planning that they do for long-term maintenance can affect the co-op's costs. The members then benefit directly through housing charge payments that are reasonable. In the long term, through non-profit management, the co-op's housing charges can gradually become more favourable when compared to the charges for private rental housing where profit is made and where there is little or no resident influence in the management.

In social terms, the co-op's goal is to become a community where people can feel comfortable and "at home", where children can be safe and nurtured, where living is more than existing within four walls. The means used to foster this special feeling of community may vary from co-op to co-op depending on the personalities and interests of the members. They can do it by organizing social and sports activities, special interest groups and liaison with other co-operatives. We do this by paying special attention to each others human and civil rights, by identifying and accommodating people's special needs and by being good citizens of the community outside the co-op.

4. What kind of lease or agreement do we sign?

In a co-op there is no "lease" in the ordinary understanding of that word. Instead, there is a housing or occupancy agreement that sets out the obligations of the co-op to the member and the member to the co-op. It is not tied to a period of time like a lease. However, members are required to give a specified notice before moving out, 70 DAYS.

5. How is the housing charge (rent) set?

The chief advantage of a non-profit housing co-op is that budgets are determined on a cost-only basis, which means that the increases in monthly housing charges will be those caused by comparable increases in the cost of operating the project. With good management, many co-ops are able to keep housing charge increases at a minimum and still fund all of the necessary and beneficial programs. The regular housing charge can be increased only by means of a budget vote taken at a meeting of the members called for that purpose.

The housing charges at Alfred Haenchen Co-operative Homes are:

1 Bedroom   $594+Utilities
1 Bedroom   $473+Utilities as per Region of Waterloo Guidelines
2 Bedroom   $944+Utilities
2 Bedroom Accessible   $944+Utilities
3 Bedroom   $1029+Utilities
3 Bedroom (Apt)   $873+Utilities ($923.00-50.00 = $873.00) Electric heat
4 Bedroom   $1114+Utilities

The first month's housing charge is due on the first day of the month or the day you take possession of the unit. Included in this amount are your unit’s shares of the co-op's expenses: mortgage principle and interest, taxes, insurance on the buildings, general maintenance, utilities costs for the common areas, reserves for future replacement of capital items and administration.

THERE IS A SAME AMOUNT AS HOUSING CHAGRE FOR THE MARKET AND $500.00 FOR THE RENT GEARED INCOME MEMBERS’ DEPOSIT REQUIRED AT THE TIME OF SIGNING YOUR OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT.

6. What do we pay besides the housing charges?

Before your interview you will pay a nominal application fee that is set by the co-op, 15 dollars per adult. This fee becomes a membership fee when your membership is approved. It is paid only once and guarantees your voting rights for as long as you reside in the co-op. Responsibility for heat, hydro, hot water tank, water and sewerage are not included in the housing charge. You will also have your own telephone, Internet and cable charges. Of course, you can anticipate some extra personal and family expenses related to moving.

There is also a monthly sector support fee of $9.00 per unit. A contribution made by the co-op to the national and provincial Co-operative organization, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada.

Fifty percent of the units at Alfred Haenchen are set aside for people requiring assistance with their housing charges. At the present time, our allocation of subsidized units is full. We regret we are unable to take any more names as we already have a substantial waiting list.

7. What about insurance coverage?

The co-op will carry insurance on co-op property (the structures, including the co-op Centre). It will not carry insurance on your individual property (furnishings, clothing, automobile, etc.) We strongly recommend and it is a Co-op POLICY that you investigate a householder's policy for your personal possessions.

8. How much time will I have to spend on the co-op?

Some of the work of the co-op will be done by volunteers working individually and in-groups. You may want to get involved with landscaping, socials, newsletter, finances, interviewing, Board of Directors, etc. The minimum that is expected of any co-op member is:

  • - to pay the housing charges in full and on time,
  • - to attend general members' meetings and get enough information to be able to make intelligent decisions,
  • - to care for his/her own unit and associated space, and
  • - to treat the rest of the community with respect.
Each co-op needs somewhat more than that minimum participation from many of its members in order to meet its goals, and each will set its own expectations through discussion and debate.

9. What happens if some don't do anything?

A healthy co-op can accommodate many different lifestyles and a variety of kinds of participation. However, if a member is so negligent as to fail altogether in her/her responsibilities to the other members, the Board may ask for a special meeting with that member to determine a solution to the problem. If the member fails to pay the housing charge or damages the unit, then eviction may be considered.

Not all participation will be of equal value. There are also negative or counter-productive ways to participate, with behavior that undermines rather than contributes to the spirit of the community.

Most co-op members will recognize that the work should be shared by those people who benefit from it, the members. The creative and humane means that a group uses to solve its participation "problems" will be a measure of its success and commitment to Co-operative ideals.

10. Where do I fit in?

You can be a tremendous asset to your co-op. Each member who takes an active interest in the community helps to make it a better place for all. From time to time, you may be asked to help in some community project. Please say yes!! By working together we can keep expenses down and spirits up. By paying attention to the grounds, we can improve the appearance of our property. By planning and sharing work and play, we can get to know our neighbours and develop a strong sense of belonging in our community.

11. How can I become a member?

Filling out the application is the first step. The information you give will allow the co-op to determine your needs, your credit rating and something about your potential as a member. The next step is attending an Orientation Meeting where you will receive important information about the Co-op and an interview, which includes all adult family members, conducted by trained volunteers.

On the basis of that interview and the other information gathered, the volunteers will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors and you will be notified of the decision in plenty of time to make your moving plans.