Alex Laidlaw Co-op shows you can be generous and still balance your books
This article is part of a series by CHASEO spotlighting some of our member co-ops and showing the diversity of Eastern Ontario’s co-ops.
The Alex Laidlaw Housing Co-operative is a 36-unit co-op near LeBreton Flats.
The co-op’s name comes from Dr. Alex Laidlaw, a leader in the Canadian co-operative movement. It’s more than just a name: this co-op has a deep connection to co-operative values.
The co-op demonstrated its values last year, when its members decided to offer a home to a refugee family, and reduce the housing charges to a level the family could afford. Odai Waheeb and Ruaa Abbas moved into the co-op in the summer of 2016.
Waheeb spoke warmly of his neighbours: “The community in the coop was a small picture that reflects the bigger one in Canada, same example of cooperation, love, and forgiveness.” Co-op members also helped the family move in, donated furniture, and shared advice and information.
The co-op’s generosity hasn’t gotten in the way of its financial responsibility. In 2016, as the co-op was welcoming and supporting its new refugee members, it also won CHASEO’s Geoff Robbins Award for Financial Excellence.
Robin Shaban was the co-op’s treasurer at the time. She connects the co-op’s financial success to its sense of community. She finds that when members get together for events like the co-op’s annual Clean-Up Day, and when their kids play together, it builds a sense of community, a shared vision, and a desire to protect the co-op and steward its resources.
The process of starting the co-op began in 1978, as part of the LeBreton Flats Demonstration Project. This project brought the National Capital Commission (NCC), the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and the City of Ottawa together in an attempt to build housing that responded to the community’s needs and used innovative methods for environmental sustainability.
Construction on the co-op began in 1980, supported both by $1.7 million in CMHC funding, and by the work of co-op members who participated in planning and designing the units.
In a 1981 Ottawa Citizen article quoted on the co-op’s website, one founding member, Tom Haley, said, “It was a tremendous [amount of] work and we had really help each other out. But it drew us into a community… This co-op is similar to the old communities where everyone knew everyone and would stop to say good day and have a chat.”
It’s clear that the hard work and generosity of this co-op’s members are keeping that spirit alive today.
• Information on the co-op’s history came from its website.
• Information on the LeBreton Flats Demonstration Project came from Cities and Natural Process: A Basis for Sustainability, by Michael Hough.
• Thank you to members Odai Waheeb and Robin Shaban for taking the time to talk about their co-op.