Housing co-ops are non-profit, self-directing co-operative corporations. Each member leases a unit from the co-op. As a group, the members own the co-op, but individual members do not own their units and can’t sell them.
The basic principles of co-operation were first put together by a group of weavers in Rochdale, England, who set up a co-operative store. It became the model for co-operatives of all kinds around the world: today there are farm and retail co-ops, banking co-ops (credit unions), daycare co-ops and others in addition to housing co-ops. One of the objects for which Windmill Line was incorporated was “to encourage and promote a better understanding of co-operative principles and to contribute to the betterment of society.”
Windmill Line is committed to the seven international principles of co-operation, as interpreted for housing co-ops:
Voluntary and Open Membership – Membership in a housing co-op is open to all who can use the co-op’s services and accept the responsibilities of being a member, without discrimination.
Democratic Control – Housing co-ops are controlled by their members. Each member has one vote. Housing co-ops give members the information they need to make good decisions, and take part in the life of the co-op.
Member Economic Participation – Members contribute financially to the co-op and share in the benefits of membership. The co-op does not pay a return on the members’ shares or deposits. Instead it sets aside reserves for the future and charges the members only what it needs to operate soundly.
Autonomy and Independence – Housing co-ops are independent associations. They follow the laws that apply to them and their agreements with governments or other organizations. But the members control the co-op.
Education, Training and Information – Housing co-ops offer education and training to the members, directors and staff so that everyone can play a full role in the life of the co-op. Housing co-ops find ways to tell the public what they are and what they do.
Co-operation Among Co-operatives – By organizing together in federations, housing co-ops grow stronger and help to build a healthy co-op movement. Where they can, housing co-ops use the services of co-op businesses to meet their needs.
Concern for Community – Housing co-ops work to build strong communities inside and outside the co-op. They help to improve the quality of life for others and they take care to protect the environment.
There are housing co-ops across Canada. For more information about them:
www.chfcanada.coop (Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada)
www.coophousing.com (Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto)