Equity Co-Operatives

There are many forms of joint ownership. One we’ve been looking at is called an equity co-operative. The co-op owns the land and structure, the partners own shares which permit them to occupy a unit. According to CMHC’s note on equity co-operatives, they “combine various aspects of co-operative and individual ownership. The term covers a variety of options, but generally they include these main characteristics:

  • members provide development capital,
  • they share ownership of the project,
  • they usually manage the project themselves,
  • they control who can join the co-operative, and
  • they operate on non-profit principles.”

Control over who can join the co-operative is an important consideration for a small group of people who intend to live within an intentional community. A statement prepared by the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada explains how this works:

When the members leave an equity co‐op, they do not put their home on the open real‐estate market.   They sell their shares back to the co‐operative, whether for full market value or on a limited equity basis, and the co‐operative finds new members to purchase the shares. In this way, co‐ops can control whom they select as members.

A challenge to this model is that financing can be more difficult. Many banks won’t provide individual mortgages to co-op buyers. Credit unions, which in themselves are a form of co-op, are often more sympathetic.

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