Learning from the Canadians

By 5th June 2018Uncategorised



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!!!

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