Canadian Housing Co-ops



As compared to other co-operatives, such as consumer co-ops, credit co-ops, agricultural co-ops and workers co-ops, housing co-operatives have had a slow start due to a number of constraints unique to housing, not due to a lack of need. Housing co-operatives require a large investment at the start, something which the working class have never been able to make the initial commitment to without some kind of state or outside private support. Furthermore, housing markets take a long time to react to new demands and are prone to booms and slumps. Investment, therefore, can be a high risk. Prior to co-operatives, other forms of tenure developed to support the need for working class housing, including private renting, philanthropic housing associations, and mortgaged owner-occupation.

Much of the early housing co-operatives were formed using funds from the capital-rich consumer co-ops. Some co-operative housing continues to be developed through the initial support of consumer, credit, construction, housing, and other co-operatives. Trade unions and churches have played a major role in the development of co-operative housing. (Birchall, 1997)


Rochdale Pioneers start the first successful retail co-operative in Rochdale, England, providing cheap, unadulterated goods to its members. They established a set of principles, including the following which are still practised today: open membership; one member, one vote; limited return on share capital; not-for-profit operation; continuous education; and co-operation among co-operatives.


Guelph Campus Co-operative, in Canada, establishes as a retail co-op, which later adds a student housing component.


The Antigonish Movement, led by Moses Coady of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada encourages retail and farm co-ops to form. The movement also promotes building co-ops, which enable members to build houses for one another. When all are housed, the co-op dissolves, leaving the members as individual owners. 1936

Campus Co-operative Residence, owned and operated by students, is established at the University of Toronto to provide housing for students and is the first permanent housing co-operative in Canada.


Willow Park Housing Co-operative opens in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is the first permanent housing co-operative for families in Canada.


Through amendments to the National Housing Act the federal government of Canada (under CMHC-Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) launches the first program to develop housing co-ops. Over 60,000 co-op homes are created across Canada under subsequent federal and provincial programs.


Federal government withdrawal from funding new co-op housing in Canada. Some provinces and municipalities continue or begin to provide funding.


From the BC Institute for Co-operative Studies