How Government Landlords Can Trash The Value Of Co-op Housing

Yellow stucco walls and a red roof peek over a high green hedge.
The City of Vancouver, B.C. owns the land under False Creek South, a 1970's mixed development of social housing, co-ops and condominiums. Leases come due beginning in 2025.

Housing Co-ops are a tried and true means of creating affordable housing and shielding that affordability by keeping the enterprise away from the free market. Co-ops can protect both rents as well as ownership of units.

The protection from the market has been an attraction for years, but co-op construction has not really boomed anywhere in North America, in part due to the fact that it can be difficult to create a legal structure based on many differing laws in many and varied jurisdictions1.

In spite of this drawback, the speculator-driven housing price increases that are occurring worldwide have triggered renewed interest in the affordable housing security benefits that can be achieved with co-ops.

Land ownership is one key to its long term affordability. A recent development in the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, emphasizes just how important this is.

Joint ownership of the land by the co-operative occupants is, needless to say, the most secure guarantee of maintaining affordability outside of the free market. A land trust can also guarantee long-term security.

What about local government land ownership? That can make the co-op a city tenant. It might be easy to believe that a city such as Vancouver, with world-beating housing costs and a desperate need for affordable housing, would be an ideal landlord, anxious (unlike private landlords) to see housing prices and rents stay low.

But with a number of co-op leases expiring, the city of Vancouver is reconsidering its options as landlord. Its most recent proposal suggests that it would be wise never to trust a government to protect the affordability of housing. Author of a study “Social Benefits of Co-operative Housing: Housing Co-ops’ Contribution to the Creation of Integrated Affordable Complete Communities,” Professor Marc White unpacks the problem in the Vancouver Sun: What exactly are housing co-ops and who do they house in Vancouver?

Footnotes

  1. Try: A Legal Centre That Enables Land Trusts And Co-operative Housing

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