Category: Education

22 Jun 2016

Expanding your co-op to meet members’ changing needs

In June, the CHASEO staff team and several of our Board members had the pleasure of attending CHF Canada’s 2016 Annual General Meeting in Hamilton, ON.  It was a great opportunity to talk with others in the co-op sector and to learn from workshops.

One particularly interesting presentation came from Tim Welch Consulting, on the topic of “Co-op Housing: The Next Generation”.

Welch shared insights from his experience helping co-ops expand to offer more units, and to have a mix of unit types that meets their members’ needs. He spoke about assisting Four Feathers Housing Co-op (London ON), Halam Park Housing Co-operative (Hamilton, ON), and Albert Haenchen Co-operative Homes (Waterloo, ON) with expansion projects.

Some of the main reasons co-ops chose to expand were:

  • To add one-bedroom units to support aging in place
  • To add accessible units
  • To add or improve common areas


While each project and each co-op are different, he identified success factors that he found made a redevelopment project more likely to succeed:

  • Consistent and dedicated Board and staff leadership
  • Keeping members informed of plans and progress, and focused on goals
  • Ability to contribute own operating funds, land, or equity through refinancing
  • Good financial state
  • Willingness to take reasonable risks
  • Having a plan prepared in advance of capital funding proposal calls
  • Supportive municipality


Welch identified many innovative paths and strategies that these co-ops took to make redevelopment possible:

  • Obtaining financing through Community Forward Fund (a Canadian nonprofit that makes loans to, and arranges financing for, nonprofits and charities), that did not have to be registered on the title.
  • Combining City Funding with Aboriginal funding
  • Successfully advocating for the municipality to transfer RGI to some of new units for overhoused members
  • Collaborating with other area co-ops on a larger-scale development
  • Advocating to elected officials and senior civil servants for a more flexible program to help manage cash flow requirements in pre-construction phase
  • Selling off scattered units to raise capital
  • Expanding through equity co-op model


Overall, the message from the workshop that came through loud and clear was that in order to expand to meet members’ needs, co-ops need to be proactive, innovative, and goal-oriented.

CHF Canada members can access the workshop materials from the 2016 AGM here.

02 May 2016

Spring Congress Workshop Materials

What’s Next?

Moderator: Penelope Winter

Panelists: Linda Stephenson, Karla Skoutajan, & Peter Trostscha

When Rights Clash in Co-ops: Human Rights and the Duty to Accommodate

Instructor: Celia Chandler

Aging in Place

Instructors: Cynthia Mitchell & Fazeela Jiwa


Vieillir chez soi

Instructeurs: Marie-Josée Houle et Jean-Michel Bedard

28 Apr 2016

Our by-law didn’t pass… now what?

bylawsIt can be disappointing when time and effort is put into crafting a by-law, only to have it voted down by your co-op’s membership.

To decide what to do next, it’s important to figure out why the by-law didn’t pass.  This will guide your next steps. If the Board can determine why the by-law did not pass, then they can set about responding to the concerns of members.

Here are some potential courses of action based on different reasons a by-law might not pass:

Members didn’t feel they had enough time to absorb the significant by-law:

Not unusual! Sometimes co-ops or committees take months or years to pour over the documents, only to bring it to the membership with a few weeks’ notice. If this was a concern, the co-op can create “drop in and discuss” style sessions where members can come to ask the committee or Board questions.

Change can be hard, so allowing members the time and opportunity to understand what is being proposed and why can increase the likelihood of success.  After some time and some availability to discuss, the co-op could reintroduce the by-law.

Members dislike a new clause or section in the by-law (where there is flexibility for the co-op to change its position):

VoteBring the feedback to the committee and/or Board, and consider whether members’ feedback can be incorporated. If it can, and it is a tenable position for the co-op to take (e.g. it won’t blow the budget, won’t violate legislation, won’t upset the apple cart, etc.), the Board should consider responding to the needs and wants of its membership… they own the co-op, after all!

When the by-law is reintroduced, demonstrate to the membership that the co-op is flexible and has made the changes, but encourage the membership to next time introduce an amendment to the by-law to reflect their position rather than rejecting it completely.

Alternatively, the Board could present the same by-law with a list of alternative amendments that members could so move should they feel the need to. This builds capacity within the membership and empowers them while allowing the Board to continue to recommend their preferred position.

Members dislike a new clause or section in the by-law (where there is no flexibility for the co-op to change its position):

This is a case where more information needs to be brought to equip the membership with the information to make the right decision.

The lack of flexibility might come from a requirement that the by-laws conform to legislation or to directives from the City of Ottawa, or from a potentially serious impact on the co-op’s finances.

In these cases, members may need more information to understand the reasoning for the recommendations in the by-law.  This is something that CHASEO can help with, but members typically will make the right decision for the co-op when given the information to do so.

And what about the by-law committee?

Members of the by-law committee might be tempted to resign when the by-law they’ve worked to create is voted down.

However, they might instead consider it an opportunity for the committee to do more work to make sure everyone understands the legal and financial framework the co-op works within and what is being proposed.  It is also a mandate from the membership to act transparently and respond to the members’ concerns.

The committee should, however, consider resigning if they are absolutely not open to changing the by-laws to address the concerns of the membership.  After all, that would make it quite difficult to fulfill the mandate given to them at the last AGM.

If your co-op is feeling overwhelmed by by-laws, CHASEO offers by-law review services.  Contact Executive Director Céline Carrière at to learn more.