Boost for housing co-ops as Chrystia Freeland tables Canada’s federal budget

Sector apex CNF welcomed ‘the clear role for co-op housing as part of the supply response to this generation’s housing crisis’

The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF) has welcomed the “sharp focus on housing” from the government after finance minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the 2024 federal budget.

CHF says the budget, which includes measures from last week’s federal housing plan, ”largely focuses on the housing needs of renters and younger generations”, adding: “We welcome the clear role for co-op housing as part of the supply response to this generation’s housing crisis.”

Canada’s share of non-market community housing, including co-ops, has slipped significantly in past decades and is now well below the OECD average, says CHF.

“However,” it argues, “non-market community housing is exactly the kind of housing we need; homes are affordable, secure and drive economic growth. Canada’s housing co-ops are ready and able to partner with the federal government, and all other governments, to undertake the essential task of developing more housing co-operatives.

“Coming out of the Second World War, we did exactly this and it resulted in the housing co-ops that continue to provide affordable homes to a quarter of a million Canadians today.”

Related: Plans announced for biggest co-op housing development in Ontario, Canada

CHF reiterating its call on the government to launch the Co-operative Housing Development Program, first committed to in the 2022 budget, which pledges a major co-op house-building initiative.

“We have shovel-ready projects at risk of missing the 2025 construction season,” said CHF executive director Tim Ross. “Co-op housing is just the type of housing we need more of, to ease the affordability crisis. The federal government needs to launch the program in the coming months, so together we can create more co-op homes.”

He added: “This budget speaks to the affordability and housing concerns of Canadians. This budget and the new federal housing plan include important commitments the federal government has made to create new co-operative housing through construction and acquisition of rental buildings.

“We look forward to working with the government to implement these housing programs through an approach that uses the energy and expertise of the co-op housing sector. We urge the federal government to act swiftly to launch these programs and continue to grow the supply of non-market housing.” 

CHF adds that the CA$1.5bn Canada Rental Protection Fund announced earlier this month “will critically enable housing co-ops and non-profits to buy market rental buildings to protect renters … Renters are at risk today. An expedited launch of the fund will allow housing co-ops and non-profits to acquire rental buildings now, protecting renters and preserving affordable homes forever.”

It also calls for a fully funded Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy, developed and implemented with an Indigenous delivery partner. “The government has committed to the distribution of $4.3bn through the establishment of a ‘for Indigenous, by Indigenous’ National Housing Centre,” added CHF. “This must be funded without delay.

Related: French housing co-op federation releases guide on how to create a co-op culture

The apex also warns that rental assistance programs are set to expire in four years. “These low-cost, high-impact programmes are what enables co-op housing to be mixed-income, while keeping the buildings in good working order. The federal government needs to commit to rental assistance beyond 2028 to give households and co-ops essential security.“ CHF Canada looks forward to better understanding what flexibility to the Federal Community Housing Initiative is proposed.”

Other notable housing commitments from Freeland include:

  • $1bn increase to the Affordable Housing Fund and the launch of a new rapid housing stream to build deeply affordable housing, supportive housing and shelters.
  • $15m for a new Tenant Protection Fund for organisations that provide legal and informational services to tenants, as well as for tenants’ rights advocacy organisations to raise awareness of renters’ rights.
  • An overhaul of Canada Lands Company, including a commitment to transfer land for $1 to support more affordable housing, beginning with five federal land sites.
  • $800m over five years for the Canada Greener Homes Affordability Program that will support the direct installation of energy-efficiency retrofits for Canadian households with low- to median-incomes.

CHF president Cassia Kantrow said: “Co-ops have years-long waitlists because people want to access the affordability, security and community connection that housing co-ops offer. CHF and housing co-ops are ready and eager to work with the federal government to expand, build, and acquire more co-op housing. We continue to urge the federal government to quickly launch the Co-operative Housing Development Program and move swiftly on new commitments like the Rental Protection Fund.” 

April Ager-White, CHF board director representing Indigenous communities, added: “There is a need for more Indigenous-led co-operative housing, and for housing-focused commitments to reconciliation. We urge the federal government to robustly invest in Indigenous-led housing solutions, including Indigenous-led co-operative housing.”