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We need public development of non-market rental stock and social/supportive housing, including temporary modular housing. Our greatest housing need is for rental stock for low-to moderate-income households that is unprofitable for private-sector developers.  We need to change the assumption that private-sector developers should take the lead on building the housing that we need for people and community.  


Housing is for community not developers. Let’s look at the Little Mountain Housing site. Ten years ago the residents were removed and the buildings demolished on what was Vancouver’s first social housing site (built in 1954). The 15 acre site continues to be vacant. The community is calling on the government to #Take Back the Mountain (sign their petition) into public hands and “to build the kind of housing that people need and deserve in Vancouver.”


The City is taking a more planned approach toward approving new affordable housing (2018 Housing Strategy), including financial incentives for developers to build rental housing instead of condos. However, the construction of affordable housing is inadequate for the current needs let alone the anticipated future needs. There’s a case to be made for a more public planning model, including public land assembly, project financing and rental housing development for the large build-out we need.


How do we define “social housing” and “affordability”?  Recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative (CCPA) research considers affordability by looking at the hourly wage that would be required to afford an apartment and allocating no more than 30 per cent of pre-tax earnings to be spent on rent. In Metro Vancouver, a household needs a wage of $26.72 per hour to afford a one-bedroom and $35.43 per hour for a two-bedroom apartment. A person in a minimum wage job, on disability or social assistance cannot afford the current rents. 


We need a building program where priority is given to households in extreme housing

need. We need a range of housing options that work for people with different incomes and at different stages in their lives that include larger, family-sized units. The top 3 needs for public housing investment include the following:

  • Housing people who are homeless

  • Non-market rental housing that is locked in as affordable

  • Housing for seniors.


We can pay for this! CCPA has crunched the numbers.  We can move forward with a build-out program that would see the construction of 10,000 new units of non-market rentals, public housing and co-op housing per year. As an example, City Council just approved the first projects under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program, which they approved in November 2017 to create more affordable housing. The pilot allows for up to 20 buildings where at least 20 per cent of the residential units must be set aside for "moderate income households," defined as households earning between $30,000 and $80,000 per year. It’s a start! 


Read the CCPA report, “Planning for a build-out of affordable rental housing in Metro Vancouver”.

 
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We need social housing and welfare rates enough to cover basic rent in the city. There are 2,223 homeless people in Vancouver, up only 2.2% but there are more seniors, women and those who had housing now in the homeless count. It takes political will and all levels of government to address the problem. Read more in the just released  The Vancouver Homeless Count 2019 


In 2015, Medicine Hat declared it had ended chronic homelessness. The program continues to be successful. "Our definition of ending homelessness never did include the idea that it would never exist again, and that people would never fall back into that state of homelessness," said Jaime Rogers, the manager of homeless and housing at the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society. ​"We still need emergency shelters and we absolutely have people in our community that still experience homelessness. However, anyone who experiences being homeless is for a period that is "brief and short-lived," she said. 


The Mayor of Medicine Hat calls on provinces and Ottawa to provide the funding, but then to allow municipalities to implement strategies that makes the most sense wherever they're at. He says that their homeless strategy is saving taxpayers money in  terms of declining costs of crime, health care and child welfare services. 


Housing is for community not developers. On November 30, a rally was held at what was the Little Mountain Housing site. Ten years ago the residents were removed and the buildings demolished on what was Vancouver’s first social housing site (built in 1954). The 15 acre site continues to be vacant. A rally spokesperson says, “It was a successful social housing community. Many, many thousands of people grew up and lived their lives there. The buildings could have been renovated.”  The spokesperson adds, “It’s clear that the redevelopment of Little Mountain has been a failure. We are calling on the government to #Take Back the Mountain,’ to take the Little Mountain site into public hands and to build the kind of housing that people need and deserve in Vancouver.”


Read the  Vancouver Homeless Count 2019 Report 

Learn more about the Homeless Action Strategy in Alberta 

 
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"Scotiabank Refuses to Honour Old GIC's Until CBC Steps In" reads the headline. Watch the CBC clip and Denis Flinn, General Manager CCEC is interviewed (at 1:33). 

 

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STILL FROM MENSAKAS YOUTUBE VIDEO FOR ITS FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN. IMAGE: RIDERSXDERECHOS BCN/YOUTUBE

This recent article in VICE provides a great overview on how the digital economy can be re-oriented to promote worker co-ops, and other forms of social enterprise.  In particular, we have to consider people-based alternatives to the exploitative trends in the 'gig economy'. 

Worker co-ops are a model of worker ownership that can be a real alternative to transnational capitalism. Employee ownership, with one-member one-vote, emphasises the importance of the work, the worker, and the workplace; while it downplays the return to be paid to outside investors.  Growing tech companies now prosper by squeezing workers; Amazon, UBER, Facebook, and others create two classes - the very rich and the precarious poor. 

Many software and technology firms are worker owned at the start but 'sell out' as they grow.  However, some are committed to a co-op model long term. This is likely the future for co-ops in the Internet Age.  One in BC is Affinity Bridge.  In addition, one of the Affinity Bridge principals, Robin Puga, hosts Each For All on Vancouver Co-op Radio

In Montreal, an option to UBER has been created, called EVA; it is a novel hybrid of a worker and consumer co-op.  EVA now has over 18,000 members.  In BC MODO the car co-op is a great consumer co-op with a good core technology platform. 

Open-source software may give local projects the means to create their own apps and build their own successful co-op business, adapted to our device driven reality.  Such projects have a potential privacy side benefit if the user's personal data is not being aggregated and sold to the Big Data marketing machine.    

 

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The Canadian Government is investing up to $184 million to construct affordable housing on city-owned sites. There are plans for up to 1,100 units across Vancouver to be funded through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The first funded projct, Pierview Homes, is a 140-unit co-operative housing development  in the River District of southeast Vancouver.  Learn more about this initiative in the full article  here.

Another recent announcement is the First Time Home Buyer Incentive which launches Sept. 2. This Incentive helps qualified first-time homebuyers reduce their monthly mortgage carrying costs without adding to their financial burdens. Learn more about the program here.

Be sure to call CCEC and talk with our mortgage experts about your options. 

The Federal Government says that every Canadian deserves to have a safe and affordable place to call home. With this in mind, in 2017 they launched the National Housing Strategy and aim to cut homelessness in half.

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My book, The Co-op Revolution (Caitlin Press), talks about Roger Inman, CCEC and 1970's co-ops.  It is an account of my time with the co-op movement in Vancouver’s activist years of the 1970s. I was a founder and member of CRS Workers’ Co-op, an organization that was owned and managed by us. We started four projects in Vancouver, all to do with food production and distribution: a cannery that preserved BC fruit in honey, a beekeeping co-op, a bakery and a food wholesaler. As well, we helped other small food co-ops get started.

Sometime in the autumn of 1975 Michael Goldstein showed up at the Pandora Street office of CRS Workers’ Co-op with a sheaf of documents in hand. We knew that the co-op movement possessed its own form of financial institution founded by the people, for the people’s well-being. So when Michael told our group that he and others were trying to organize just such a credit union to be called CCEC, we were happy to sign up. Several of us signed on a charter document that night and some of us expressed interest on serving on the new credit union’s committees when it received its charter in 1976. Right on!—as we said in those days. This was what co-operatives needed—access to funds that were not governed by the big business of Canada's banks or subject to the day’s political whims. The credit union movement would be a big boon to women in business as well, recognizing their abilities to manage a loan without requiring a man at the helm.

From The Co-op Revolution: “Most of us opened our personal share/saving accounts at CCEC when it moved to its first real office at 205 E. 6th Avenue. I was member number 32 and my deposit card reports that on March 4, 1976, I deposited $4 to open my account, after which the deposits and withdrawals continued sporadically until 1981. That first transaction was initialed by K, which probably stood for Katherine Ruffen, the first manager.

The best thing about this credit union was its personal service in the days before ATM machines. If I had neglected to withdraw cash on a Friday for the weekend’s activities, I could call Katherine at work and tell her I was on my way. “Please don’t leave until I get there,” I would say, and I would arrive minutes before closing time.  It’s doubtful whether any bank or credit union today would be concerned about my lack of cash for the weekend.” 

One member of our co-op, Roger Inman, served CCEC Credit Union loyally and after his death in 1989 a memorial award commemorated his work. The award is given by CCEC annually in recognition of a project that has made a significant contribution to the economic development of the community. And that’s how Roger would have wanted it.  

I first met Roger in 1975 when I moved to Vancouver from Ontario. He had moved from Winnipeg around the same time with his tent in his backpack and had heard about CRS starting the Tunnel Canary cannery. He didn’t know much about co-ops or canning at the time but he was most enthusiastic about the project and his sense of humour helped us to get through some of the hot, labour intensive work of processing fruit and jam. Roger continued to work with the cannery collective until its demise when he turned to another CRS project, Uprising Breads Bakery.

There’s more about Roger and other CRS workers in my book, The Co-op Revolution. I’ll be reading from it at the Vancouver Public Library main branch on Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend and books will be for sale. (For more, see: jandegrass.com).

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More than fifty members came out to the CCEC Annual General Meeting February 6th, to consider ordinary business and four special resolutions.  Special resolutions - which require 18 days notice and 2/3 majority support - are needed to alter the CCEC Rules (or 'bylaws').

The board proposed four Rule changes; texts and rationale had been circulated well in advance.  Director Shannon Daub presented these to the meeting, specifically saying that these changes were presented separately so that members would have the opportunity to consider each change on its own merits.  

In the end, three of the changes were carried by substantial majorities. These included (1) a prohibition of employees sitting as directors, (2) a charge to the nominating committee to inquire into candidates' potential conflicts of interest and report out on these to members, and (3) giving limited authority to the board to remove a director for misconduct, failure to attend to duties, or if they were obliged to resign by law and had not.  In the debate several particulars were highlighted, such as possible conflicts that may result in Rules texts, and the board will be looking into these more closely.   

Special resolution #4 failed. That change would have enabled the directors to introduce the use of electronic notices and voting, subject to statutory restrictions.  The principal concern expressed by those speaking against the motion related to electronic voting.  There was a view that CCEC should not proceed down such a path without much more careful planning and proposals. 

Within the context of these debates, but also receipt of other reports and elections, the meeting was lively and constructive.  All feedback on the meeting that has been offered subsequently has been positive and we thank all those attending for there contributions.

​The successful special resolutions have now been filed with the Superintendent, and the board will be reconsidering the various matters arising in the next few months. 

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Wild Salmon Caravan (WSC) is a project led by the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS) in collaboration with the Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance. The project engages multiple Indigenous and non-Indigenous Elders, activists, researchers and lawyers.  2019 will be the 5th annual WSC.  Dawn Morrison, Co-Founder/Chair of the WGIFS says, “The strength of our work lies in our networks and our ability to link with over 100+ organizations to leverage support, access funding, and co-develop programs, promotion, and public education materials, as well as plan logistics, and host community arts build workshops, feasts, ceremonies and visual and performing arts events.”  

The WSC, with guidance and direction from the Salish Council of Matriarchs, raises awareness of the issues surrounding the declining health and abundance of our most important Indigenous food, wild salmon. They organize community arts and cultural engagement activities that brings together Rainbow Peoples (peoples of all creeds and cultures) in their public education campaign and celebrations of the spirit of wild salmon.

The WSC mobilizes traditional ecological knowledge, values, strategies, practices and protocols that have persisted throughout the process of colonization. The WSC media highlights  teachings on sustainability of wild salmon fisheries and how it can be applied in the present day reality.  Sustainability of our efforts ultimately lies in the extended networks where Indigenous food, social and ceremonial fisheries knowledge lives, and the large volunteer basis on which the WGIFS and WSC planning teams work. We activate sharing and trading of knowledge and food and revitalize inter-tribal networks, and we promote and generate awareness of how to increase the communities’ ability to respond to their own needs for food in a way that affirms the regenerative paradigm that underlies Indigenous cosmologies and worldviews. 

In 2018, the eight-day caravan started in Vancouver with a parade on September 22 and finished in Chase at Adams Lake on September 29.  For more information and to get involved in the 2019 WSC visit their website  Like and Follow them on Facebook 
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Control is a complex subject.  In our increasingly centralized and corporate world, control is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  In this era of globalism we have some very large companies that have enormous influence.  Unfortunately, we then are confronted with how we can hold these billionaires and financiers accountable.  Governments even start to look small by comparison. Voting in our elections may provide leverage but big money is at play in elections too.  But beyond government, communities may assume 'ownership' directly.

Co-operative democratic ownership is a radical alternative model for organizing commerce, as is the democratic non-profit association.  It is through these models real 'DEMOCRACY' is achieved.  But these models rely on people to step up and participate, in pursuit of the common good.  The crux is for individuals to realize that a vote, every few years, is a bare minimum.  Responsible citizenship requires more of us. 

Corporate capitalism asserts that 'markets' will hold commercial enterprises accountable.  However, this has not proven to be the case; government regulation is needed to ensure transparency, safety, equitable treatment, and reasonable choice. And regulation is a constant field of struggle.  In addition, the dominant corporate model has two major shortcomings - the tendency to consolidate (create monopolies) and the tendency to place higher costs on those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder (e.g. payday lenders). 

The co-operative model, like the one we have at CCEC, gives consumer members the ownership responsibilities.  Ordinary people (though their representatives) assume control.  In this community ownership model 'profit maximization' is not the primary objective.  

In BC and in Canada the co-operative model is in some stress.  While some large co-ops and credit unions appear to be successful, the role of the members-owners has been eroded.  Democracy has been diminished. Small co-ops and projects become even more important.  Participation is key - as directors, on advisory committees, and as volunteers - that ensures 'control' rests with the people, but also generates debate, innovation and social change.

Democracy relies on ordinary people taking part, stepping up, and 'seizing' control in service of the common  good.

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Did you know that:

·         In BC, 50% of all seniors live on an income of less than $26,000/year?

·         The 2018 Homeless Count found that 23% were over the age of 55?

·         It is estimated that by 2038, about one in four people living in B.C. will be a senior?

Seniors face many issues and challenges that include social isolation, loneliness and poverty.  The Seniors 411 Society offers programs that reduce social isolation, increase social inclusion, and are a critical component of any anti-poverty strategy.  The Society’s submission on a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Seniors (Feb. 2018) states that the BC plan must address both increasing income and helping reduce or manage costs.  They also provided recommendations in seven areas that include housing, transportation, food insecurity and community based programs.  BC is still the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan.

In the 411 Seniors Centre Society submission, they emphasize the importance of community and social connections for seniors.  Seniors have told staff at the Society that they feel a loss of community if they move to a different and unfamiliar neighbourhood.  However, aging in place and finding quality, affordable rental homes in Vancouver, is a challenge for seniors on low and fixed incomes.  The new 411 Seniors Centre (anticipate ground breaking in Spring 2019) is a step to providing more seniors social housing.  It will have approximately 50 units of social housing, a multi-purpose centre and be located close to other amenities and services they need.

Leslie Remund, Executive Director for the 411 Seniors Centre Society, says, “We are a peer led membership organization that aims to cushion the impact of poverty by providing information, referral and advocacy services, a drop in for socialization & connection& daily activities that promote aging with pride and curiosity.”   The Centre strives to enhance the quality of life of seniors by adding a collective voice on seniors’ issues such as affordable housing, income, and health services.   Join us!”

Find out more about the 411 Seniors Centre Society.  Support their capital campaign for their new building.

(This year, CCEC was pleased to support a fundraiser for the 411 Seniors Centre Society.)

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