What Is a Co-op?

A co-operative is an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned enterprise, democratically controlled by its members.

There are many types of co-ops including: housing, food buying, financial, transportation, daycare, employment, agricultural and community services.

Co-ops can operate as for-profit or not-for-profit enterprises. Co-op members benefit from products and services bought and sold at a fair price. Members also have the opportunity to participate in the management and operations of their co-ops.

People in Ontario have been participating in co-ops for a century and a half. Co-ops were organized to ensure affordable products, to provide reliable services, secure employment and housing, and as a way for people to invest in their local neighbourhood. Co-operative organizations have provided a means to develop, revitalize and sustain healthy communities.

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. A housing co-op is more than just a place to live.

What are the benefits of housing co-op membership? Co-op members have the security of knowing that they can occupy their units for as long as they wish. The housing is well maintained and affordable. A strong community can develop and all members have a voice in making the decisions that directly affect them.

What are the responsibilities of co-op membership? Members are responsible for running the co-op. Each individual is expected to contribute to the best of their ability. Members are also expected to pay their housing charges on time, and maintain their units and the surrounding property in good condition.

From the outside, Don Area Co-op looks like the other homes in the neighbourhood. What makes us different is the way we share the responsibilities and control of our homes. We are a not-for-profit housing co-operative, set up for the purpose of providing housing to our members.

The people who live in Don Area Co-op are its members. Our units are not individually owned. They are owned by the co-op, and cannot be bought or sold for profit.

Instead of rent, members pay a housing charge to cover all costs of operating. Members set the monthly housing charge every year in the budget. Over forty percent of households pay a reduced monthly charge based on their income, made possible through a government subsidy.

Don Area Co-op shares certain aims with other housing co-operatives:

  • to meet our members' needs
  • to be good citizens in the wider community
  • to create and conserve housing for future generations.

  • Don Area Co-op endeavours to follow the Co-operative Principles in all its decisions:

    Open membership:
    Co-ops are open without exception to anyone who needs their services and freely accepts the obligations of membership.

    Democratic control:
    Co-ops are controlled by their members, who together set policy, make decisions and elect leaders who report to them. In primary co-ops each member has one vote.

    Economic participation:
    All members contribute fairly to their co-ops, which they own in common. Co-ops pay a limited return (if any) on money people have to invest to become members. Surpluses are held for the future and used to improve the co-op's services.

    Independence:
    All agreements co-ops sign with outside organizations or governments should leave the members in control of the co-op.

    Co-operative education:
    Co-ops offer training to their members, directors and staff. Co-ops tell the public what they are and what they do.

    Co-operation among co-operatives:
    Co-ops work together through local, national and international structures to serve their members.

    Community:
    Co-ops meet members' needs in ways that build lasting communities inside and outside each co-op.

    For more information on the Co-operative Principles click here.

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