Why am I here?
Not an existential question! Although with yesterday having had an extra nine hours slipped into it, I am currently working it out myself…
I am currently in Victoria BC planning out what I need to be doing at the start of my six-week study into how the Canadian co-operative housing sector is starting to build new homes! My friends in the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF Canada) have kindly invited me to their annual meeting which takes place over the next 4 days in Victoria BC – so that’s why I’m here. NB. Courtesy of the wonderful Winston Churchill Memorial Trust – aimed at enabling global learning leading to positive change in the UK.
Those of you that know me – know that I am the Head of Policy at the Confederation of Co-operative Housing in the UK. For many years – we have been considering how we can mobilise our small but vibrant housing co-op sector to use its assets to build new homes. A number of challenges – economies of scale – lack of land where our member co-ops are – co-ops being led by volunteers means that they haven’t got the time needed to make new schemes happen …
So why Canada? Well – they have a large co-operative housing sector – and a lot of it is similar to ours in the UK (other than it’s a lot larger – over 2,000 housing co-ops – although by square mile – I think there are more in the UK!!!). Comparatively small community organisations (average of 42 homes per co-op) largely focussed on affordable homes for people on low incomes. Hadn’t done much to develop new homes until CHF Canada members passed a motion in 2016 to kickstart development. And now with a new federal Government housing strategy providing resources for new homes – some early indications of some great new developments.
So – this is what I am checking out. How are they doing it? What’s the structures and funding issues? What’s the motivations of co-op members and staff? What are the Governmental and other views? It’s going to be a trip that starts at the CHF Canada Annual Meeting – then to Vancouver – Manitoba – Toronto – Ottawa – Quebec City (with a side holiday trip on the way to the Rockies – which of course is self-funded). Wow – it all feels a little unreal at the minute – but I already feel that I have a lot of friends over here from the wonderful help Canadian folk have given me to set up a massive array of meetings with co-ops, Government people, funders, and others.
And back home in the UK. I have spoken to people at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about what I am doing. The aim is to get something out there on my return that is a “blueprint”/ideas/inspiration to kickstart our movement into building new homes – the time being right with the imminent launch of the Community Housing Fund.
Just right for now – the first steps are (a) find somewhere to buy a Canadian SIM for six weeks and (b) check into the conference!!!