How Do Co-ops Work?

From the outside, a housing co-op looks like any other townhouse development. But, a housing co-op is different – here’s how:

Owned By Members

People who live in a housing co-op are members. The co-op owns the whole property, and provides a housing unit to each member household. A household can consist of one or more adults – with or without children. Members do NOT own their units.

Managed by Members

All members have an equal say in how major decisions are made – “one member, one vote.” Members come together at meetings to elect a Board of Directors, to approve the annual budget and approve by-laws. Each director is a member and lives in the co-op. Other members work on committees or they perform various tasks to help with the work involved in running the co-op. A co-op also employs staff in the co-op’s office who look after the day-to-day business of the co-op.

Involvement by Members

The key difference between co-ops and other kinds of non-profit housing is that co-op members are actively involved in running their housing community. Each co-op member must volunteer time to serve on the Board or on a committee, or volunteer for some other co-op task. Members do not need special skills to get involved. They learn from one another and in special training sessions designed for co-op members. Members get to know each other through their working together in the co-op. This involvement creates a sense of community and a safe place for children and adults.

Who Can Live in a Housing Co-op?

Anyone can apply to live in a housing co-op. People of all backgrounds and cultures – young and old, married or single, with or without children – live in co-ops. Co-ops are also home to people with different kinds of disabilities and who have special needs. There is no minimum or maximum income level. Co-ops select their own members from those applicants who will be willing to share the responsibility of running the co-op once they become members. A willingness to live in a diverse community is important in order to be a co-op member.

Members Rights

Members of a housing co-op have a right to:

  • Right #1

    Vote on the annual budget, which sets the monthly housing charges

  • Right #2

    Elect a board of directors made up of people who live in your co‑op

  • Right #3

    Run for the board of directors yourself

  • Right #4

    Receive audited financial statements that show how the co‑op spent your money

  • Right #5

    Pay only a limited portion of your income for your housing, if you meet eligibility rules

  • Right #6

    Live there for as long as you like, if you keep to the by-laws agreed on by the co‑op membership

Video Info

In A Nutshell

Our Federation

Central Ontario Co-operative Housing Federation (COCHF) is a federation of non-profit housing co-operatives in the cities of Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, Brantford and Guelph. COCHF member organizations include: housing co-ops, student housing co-ops, co-op staff associations, and resource groups (co-op housing developers managers).

COCHF was incorporated in 1992 as a co-operative under the Co-operative Corporations Act (Ontario).

Check out the COCHF website.