Cooperative Housing International 2020 Highlights
Challenges and Opportunities
The year 2020 has been a very busy and constructive year. We are a very small team but we manage to accomplish so many goals, both planned and unplanned! CHI’s board members are phenomenal and their dedication to sharing knowledge and best practices about housing cooperatives and springing into action when opportunities to fight for cooperative housing come up, is truly why it’s been a good year.
In spite of the challenges and hardships of 2020, housing cooperatives all around the world keep inspiring us with their stories of resilience and community spirit. It’s thanks to actions like building community gardens and sharing the bounty with neighbours in need, rent deferrals and solidarity funds, members doing the shopping for their neighbours in isolation, and distributing food kits for communities that housing co-ops are proving once again that the strength and resiliency of the co-op model are what gets them through these difficult times. Just take a look at this annual report video from the Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia in Canada to see how the co-operative principles are the driving force behind the success of housing co-ops!!
Communicating good practices and sharing information about housing co-operatives is a big part of what we do and this year was particularly good for us in that respect. Thanks to additional funding from the Canadian co-op housing sector (shout out to CHF Canada et all) we were able to produce a series of one-minute videos that explain what housing cooperatives are, how they are financed and governed, the benefits of living in a co-op community and so on… Go to our YouTube channel to see our collection of videos. You can even brush up on a few languages by watching them in French and Spanish!
For CHI the challenge of not meeting in person was short-lived. We are used to meeting virtually but not in such great numbers. Now that we have better tools we are seeing the benefits of connecting people from all around the world virtually. We did more webinars than we had originally planned and a lot less traveling which is good for the planet! The webinars are great learning opportunities and they’re also very good for connecting cooperators with one another. Collaborating is essential for growing the co-op movement and with covid bringing inequalities to the forefront, it’s important that we work together to continue growing the co-op movement!
If you missed our webinars and want to catch up on the basic steps involved in developing housing cooperatives such as creating your core group, defining your goals, choosing the right model (rental, equity, limited equity, ownership), assessing what resources you can draw on, and working with professionals head over to our YouTube channel and watch the recordings.
Other knowledge exchanges can be found on YouTube such as a panel discussion with student housing cooperatives from Switzerland, Germany, North America, the UK, and Australia. A 2019 National Student Accommodation Survey in the UK revealed that 90% of students experience issues with their housing – mostly due to it not being maintained to a decent standard of living. The survey results also state that 50% of students struggle to pay their rent. This is an international trend that acts as a barrier to higher education. For many students, housing co-ops are more affordable than other housing options. They are also an opportunity to create a community environment where collaboration and working together benefit the entire house or building.
Next year we will hold more virtual knowledge exchanges with student housing co-ops and with co-ops in the Asia Pacific region.
Cooperative Housing Around the World
Montreal housing co-op Coopérative d’habitation Cercle Carré completed a pergola and renewed the greening of their roof to encourage members to safely meet and socialize during the pandemic. The project was supported by CHF Canada’s Greener Co-op Microgrant. Read more about this green project here.
What will the future bring for the co-operative housing sector in Canada? In recent years various community land trusts have been set up across the country, including Ottawa and Toronto, with some projects financially backed by local credit unions. Covid-19 remains a big threat, due to the long-term impact it could have on the Canadian economy. But for now, housing co-ops are hopeful that they are going to be able to weather the worst of it. Coop News featured an article recently on Canada’s housing co-ops that you can read here.
Every fall the North American Students for Cooperation hold a conference called the NASCO Institute. This year the event was held online and featured over 25 sessions. If you weren’t able to make it you can watch the sessions here. Please consider donating so that NASCO can continue to offer cooperative education materials and resources free of charge. DONATE HERE.
Although there is no specific mention of housing cooperatives, the Covid-19 movement control order (MCO) in Malaysia resulted in 17% of cooperatives nationwide halting their operations and another 42% facing liquidity problems. In light of this, the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry implemented a cooperative and entrepreneur recovery plan to ensure that cooperatives regain their momentum and recover by next year. Furthermore, amendments to the Cooperative Societies Act will see comprehensive changes to the law to make it easier for cooperatives to be set up and managed. You can read more in this article.
Our colleagues at Co-operative Housing in Western Australia produced a podcast called “Home is Where the Health Is” featuring a panel discussion with housing experts on why co-ops are so successful in some parts of the world as well as its benefits and challenges. You can listen to the podcast here.
We would like to officially welcome three new members to our organisation.
- Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperative (Philippines)
- Student Co-op Homes (UK)
- North American Students for Cooperation (Canada & USA)
We look forward to your active participation in the issues facing housing co-operatives around the world. For more information on becoming a member please visit our website.
Looking Ahead to 2021
At our December 10 member forum, we heard from three of our newest members, Student Co-op Homes (SCH), North American Students for Cooperation (NASCO), and the Federation of Peoples’ Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC). It was fascinating to learn about how each organisation is transforming housing in their respective countries. We look forward to more learning exchanges with our new members as well as connecting them to the wider cooperative movement.
As a lead-up to the ICA World Cooperative Congress in Seoul in December 2021, where we may actually meet in person, we are planning a few virtual events to connect housing co-ops in the Asia Pacific region. For example, FPSDC in the Philippines is developing Co-op Ville, with its primary focus being directed towards food security, renewable energy, and livelihood opportunities. Additionally, the community is composed of houses built using sustainable materials. Cooperative values are at the heart of this initiative and we are delighted to share these stories and connect other cooperators doing equally innovative work in the Asia Pacific region.
We are also doing a lot of aggregating next year. We are working with ICA’s legal team to aggregate co-op housing legal frameworks from different regions of the world. We also want to gather all the different finance mechanisms used by housing cooperatives in their development. Knowledge is power!
Did you know there are now more than 29 million podcast episodes available in more than 100 languages? We are about to add to that number by producing a podcast series on Growing up in a Housing Cooperative, produce more webinars and videos, continue our collaborative work with the CoHabitat Network, and share more knowledge about student housing cooperatives. And as mentioned earlier, connect housing co-ops through networking and learning events in the ICA Asia Pacific region. It’s going to be a busy year and we look forward to all its challenges and rewards.
Messages from our Members
We share with you a photo of a fun holiday event held by the Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH) in the UK on December 17.
CCH members put on their Christmas costumes, competed in a Christmas quiz, and did a virtual scavenger hunt. Housing co-ops know how to have fun!
“2020 has been a demanding year for us all. Despite the distance and while getting accustomed to a new way of work, we have kept focused on our mission. In a time with altered conditions, where affordable and secure housing is more important than ever, the concept of cooperative housing has proved again its worth.” – Hans Rupp, CEO of ABZ in Zurich, Switzerland
“When individuals join in a cooperative venture, the power generated far exceeds what they could have accomplished acting individually.” – R. Buckminster Fuller
“Keep that in mind we cooperators have to be firmly focused on working collectively and during the pandemic, we have proven our power by working together. At the end of 2020 I must say that we have defeated the force of the Covid-19 effect with our selfless efforts.” – Errum Sharif Bhaiji, CHI Board; K.C.H.S. Union, Karachi Pakistan
“I’m wishing all the friends of Cooperative Housing International a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The year 2020 has been tough and dark for many of us. Many have been hit hard by the pandemic. I hope and believe that 2021 will be a brighter and better year for all of us. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I also wish you and your organisation continued success. Many people benefit from our organisations that are building and managing cooperative housing. Our work within CHI contributes to spreading the cooperative idea and providing more opportunities for housing.” – Anders Lago, President, HSB
“I wish all of CHI’s partners, friends and supporters, a safe and joyful holiday season. I am hoping that each of you finds time to celebrate with your loved ones and continue to work together to support the cooperative community wherever you may be.” – Linda Brockway, National Association of Housing Cooperatives, USA
“I believe that more gender and economic equality will bring more peace to our societies. Together, let us help bring the world in this direction in 2021.” – Bernd Riessland, President, GBV, Austria