How to Apply to a Housing Co-op
Submitting your application to a housing co-operative can be tricky, because every co-op is independently owned and managed - we're working on making this easier for the community, by offering resources for co-ops, such as posting their applications online for them free of charge, but this will take time.
In the meantime, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions to get you started...
Q: Is a housing co-operative a good fit for your family ?
A: There are many benefits to being a part of a co-operative community, but it's not for everyone. A co-op might not be the best fit for you if you don't have the time to contribute to your community or you are a very private person. Co-ops rely on their members to govern, and (to varying degrees) maintain the property, so they require your time, even if it's just for a few hours per month. And although most co-op members value the security afforded to them through their close community, one of the trade-offs can be your privacy - you will know your neighbours and they will know you!
Be sure to read our What is Co-op Housing page for more information on what to expect at a housing co-op.
Q: Are co-ops considered "affordable" housing? / Is there a minimum income for application ?
A: Co-ops generally charge less than market rental rates because they are non-profit, this certainly makes them more affordable than the average rental options.
There is no set minimum income for most co-op housing units, but your income will be considered. To afford to pay market rate for the unit available, co-ops will want to ensure your housing charges will not cost more than 30% of your gross income. If housing charges will cost you more than 30% of your gross income, you may qualify for assistance through BC Housing or other similar subsidy programs.
Q: Where to start ?
A: Check out our Find a Housing Co-op page for a listing of all housing co-ops on Vancouver Island. This page will be updated with as much information as we can gather on how to apply to each co-op. Take a drive around town to check out the different co-ops and narrow down your list of where you want to apply.
Q: Where to find an application ?
Q: What to include in your application ?
A: Your application will be reviewed by volunteer members living at the co-op where you are applying - they're not just looking for a new tenant, they're looking for a new neighbour. Your application will ask for the basics, but you'll want to include a cover letter as well with more details on your family and how you intend on contributing to your new co-operative community.
It is generally not required for you to send in any of your financial information until after you have been short-listed.
Q: Do co-ops allow pets ?
A: Each co-op has its own policies when it comes to pets - most do allow pets, but will have restrictions with regards to the number and/or size of pets. If you have a pet or pets, be sure to include details in your application.
Q: What size of unit should I apply for ?
A: Most housing co-ops use the National Occupancy Standard (NOS) as a guideline for unit suitability. Generally speaking, this means one bedroom per person or paired couple - so if you are a single parent or couple with 1 child, you would qualify for a 2-bedroom unit and if you have 2 kids, that would be a 3-bedroom unit; if you're a single or couple without kids, you'd qualify for a 1-bedroom unit. There are other nuances to the guidelines that allow for young children to share a bedroom, but most co-ops will try to avoid this to prevent the family from being under-housed in the future.
Beyond the suitability of the unit to the family size, co-ops also take into consideration future affordability for the family - most housing charge assistance programs in place at housing co-ops (such as FCHI-2) do not allow under or over-housed families to apply for assistance.
Q: Where to send applications ?
A: Again, each co-op is different in this regard - some allow for applications to be emailed, some require them to be mailed or dropped off. Specific information may be found on the co-op's website or our Find a Housing Co-op page.
Q: When to follow-up or re-apply ?
A: Most co-ops will keep your application on file for 6 months, then shred, so you should be sending in a NEW application every 6 months.
Co-ops do not generally have "wait lists" - this would tend to indicate your priority on a first-come, first served basis - instead, when a vacancy comes available (and this does not happen often), all applications from the past 6 months are reviewed. The co-op's membership committee may start with 20 applications, but only 5 may be suitable for the available unit based on family size, composition and finances. Those 5 will be asked to visit the co-op for an in-person interview... or some committees will even ask to visit you in your home.
Please keep in mind that your application is being reviewed by community volunteers - do not knock on doors or harass them by email or phone.
If you've been applying for a long time with no results, you may want to confirm your eligibility for the unit you're apply to and adjust your application accordingly.
Q: Are there any vacancies ?
A: Co-ops rarely publish their vacancies because they usually already have enough applications on hand to fill any openings that come up. Your best bet is to apply to the co-op you're interested in every 6 months (see above) and if a vacancy comes up that you are suited to, you'll receive a call.
If Cascadia learns of any co-op vacancies on the Island, we will post them on our Facebook page at facebook.com/cascadiasolutions.