That’s the question the current City of Vancouver’s recent “discussion paper” is intended to answer. But it’s also the question that the residents of some 650 co-op units in False Creek South have been asking for some time – in fact, for years.
False Creek South contains five of 57 housing co-ops on City land. Most co-ops, like most leasehold stratas in the Creek, face a lease termination date between 16 and 20 years from now. Two of these five, however, are up against a very short timeline; one co-op, Marina, between the Granville and Burrard bridges, has less than 2 years left and the other, Creekview, at the entrance to Granville Island, a year beyond that. Understandably, their residents are feeling the stress and strain of wondering if and how and under what conditions they may be allowed to continue living in their homes.
But this concern isn’t news. Three years ago, Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a motion instructing staff to negotiate lease renewal with 7 co-ops on City land, (including Marina) with the understanding that that process would help guide negotiations for the remaining co-ops.
At the time, the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC (CHF BC) called it ”great news”.
“ New, longer-term arrangements with the City will lock in security of tenure, ongoing affordability and financial sustainability.
“And co-op members will no longer have to deal with the anxiety of not knowing what their collective future holds.”
“This is a major step forward for co-ops on City of Vancouver land,” said CHF BC’s executive director Thom Armstrong.
“Our members have worked very hard over the past two years to develop a broad consensus on the key terms and conditions they want to see in their new leases… and we can’t wait to get to work on the next stage of the process.”
As it turned out, the next stage didn’t materialize that year, or the year after.
In False Creek South, City staff met with the co-op closest to its end date in a process they referred to as “negotiations”. Discussions did not move the needle past the City’s starting point. Co-op representatives said that accepting its formula would fundamentally undermine the co-op’s ability to continue its 40 year existence as a mixed income cooperative. It would be too expensive to allow them to retain their low income members. As well, their financial institution advised that it would not provide a mortgage under those terms as the co-op would be bankrupt in five years. No further discussions took place.
The City said they would release a discussion paper in July of 2019 along with a public discussion process about co-op leases. The co-ops heard nothing for 6 months. Finally, on January 28, 2020, the City released a new (or revised) draft paper to the media along with a two month timeline for responses from housing co-ops and the larger community.
Since its release, the paper has triggered careful study throughout Vancouver’s leasehold co-op community. False Creek Co-ops’ Joint Co-op Board Committee met with Thom Armstrong on February 20th to review the document. Subsequently, also in February, Rising St