Montreal non-profits are buying up apartments to keep rents low
Community organizations are taking housing units off the speculative market, but advocates say the government still needs to take responsibility.
They should buy up the affordable housing buildings that the city couldn’t “afford” to maintain up to code. It’s sad to see the rent going through the roof and these buildings just sit there and boarded up, unused.
Ces organismes devraient avoir un droit d'achat prioritaire sur les immeubles et les terrains à vendre. Ils devraient avoir un financement qui visent l'expansion massive de leurs portefeuille. Idéalement 50% du parc immobilier devrait être communautaire.
My girlfriend and I were involved in a ~~not-for-profit~~ nonprofit housing co-operative for a while. It was a brand new building close to downtown that was under construction. In the end we withdrew from the organization and didn’t end up moving in and I kind of feel like we dodged a bullet. There was alleged racism, obvious classism, and a board of administration made up of people that seemed to be mostly interested in looking out for themselves.
After we were accepted as members (I say we, but actually it was only her that was a member of the co-op) she was asked to participate in the selection committee. Every Saturday she would spend four to five hours as part of a group conducting interviews with potential members over Zoom meetings. Then she would spend another two hours every week or two in meetings with the selection committee, another two hours watching a video of the meeting and writing up meeting minutes. She would also do training every week for two hours which lasted a couple of months. So around 8-10 hours a week for several months. Part of the requirements of membership is that you contribute to the co-op so on one hand spending time is expected, but on the other hand not many members were contributing anything at that time.
The selection committee meetings often got heated. The meetings didn’t seem to be chaired very well because the people who yelled the longest and loudest got the most time. There was a faction who believed that no extra rooms should be given to people to use for things like a home office or art studio. This makes sense to me because the co-op is a housing project, and every room not used as a bedroom means less people are being housed. Then there were others who thought extra rooms were appropriate because a lot of people are working from home these days, and a home is more than just a place to sleep. We have a kid and we both work from home so we were looking to move into a 3 bedroom, a 5 ½. We wanted an extra room for a home office.
There were only a small number of 5 ½s available, and the highest committee, the board of administration, kept flip-flopping on whether extra rooms would be allowed. So my girlfriend was putting in a lot of time and effort without knowing whether we would get the apartment we wanted, or I might say the apartment we needed. She wasn’t arguing for or pushing that we should get an extra room, but we wanted to know if we would or not so we could decide if we wanted to move in once the construction was finished. If we couldn’t get the 5 ½ her time spent on the co-op would be wasted, and it was stressful for her at times due to the way the meetings were conducted.
In the end the board of administration made a rule that said people who had been co-op members for a certain amount of time could get an extra room in a 5 ½. The rule was created so that we didn’t meet the time of membership by less than a month. Then the rule was changed so that a 5 ½ would only be available for families who didn’t need an extra room, with the exception of two apartments. Want to guess who got those apartments? Two members of the board of administration. There was a clear conflict of interest which was called out by some members. The board met and decided there was no conflict of interest, basically “we investigated ourselves and found we did nothing wrong.”
Part of the co-op’s purpose was to house a certain number of people receiving welfare in the form of housing subsidies. One of the board members repeatedly made their dislike known of people receiving these subsidies, saying they would drag down the quality of the community of people living in the co-op. This is a member of a board of an organization whose stated purpose is to house people receiving housing subsidies.
Then there was a black person who complained of being targeted by other members both in and out of meetings because she was black. Guess what? This was the same board member who didn’t like the people who were receiving housing subsidies.
So in the end we didn’t qualify for the size of apartment we wanted, which is fine, it just would have been better to find out sooner rather than later. And the way things were run before we even had a chance to move in, I wonder how much trouble it would have been dealing with the board and various committees telling us how to live our lives.
I know two other people who live in co-ops focused on artists, and I’ve never heard them complain about their living arrangements, so I’m sure co-ops work out great for some people and communities.
This amounts to a lottery in which some lucky renters have below market rents, paid for using public funds. It would be better to literally hand out those public funds equally.