Co-op questions
August 25, 2005 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about your co-op housing experiences...

We are frustrated with rental prices here in Vancouver B.C., and there is absolutely no way we can afford to buy anything in this market, so my boyfriend and I are considering applying to some co-ops. I'm hoping to hear from others who have lived (or currently live) in co-ops. Even better if it is/was in Vancouver!

We are both graduate students in our mid-late twenties. We don't mind participating in building life, and in fact think it would be a great way to meet new people! However, we aren't married, and aren't planning kids in the near future. Do co-ops mostly look for married couples and families? The web page for one of the co-ops I was considering says it doesn't accept 2-bedroom applications from "families" (their quotes) with no children! Is this a common attitude in these types of places?

Also, many of the co-ops here have minimum income levels. When we combine both of our school funding amounts, we more than meet the minimum, but neither of us meets it on our own. I'm wondering if that is going to be an issue...
posted by sanitycheck to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The co-op I lived in in Austin had no rule I know about dealing with married folks. The particular one I was in would have been a wierd place for a kid, though.

My wife (not my wife back then) and I did look at some other co-ops, with a plan of just getting two adjacent rooms. The rooms in the co-ops we looked at all shared a bathroom with another room; the proper adjacent rooms would just be like a wierd little apartment :) You can probably work this out with the co-op leadership if you can find the same layout.

Also, for what it's worth, co-op living was great. Some of my grad school buddies and I have pipe-dreams about starting our own adult co-op...we figure we could collectively save money *and* have a better standard of living in general.
posted by abingham at 1:57 PM on August 25, 2005

Both my parents and my sister are living in housing co-ops in the lower mainland (Surrey and Abbotsford). I know my parents' complex aims for a mixture of families, but the types of families I remember them seeking off the top of my head are "elderly couples," "families" and "single parent families." I think, though, that this is going to be highly variable depending on the co-op you apply to.

There are some issues of people being "over-housed"...particularly when a couple become empty-nesters and end up with just two people in a 3 bedroom place. But those situations get reviewed when more appropriate units for them become available (ie for them to downsize).

As for minimum income level, there is of course the buy-in fee, but otherwise I don't remember it being an issue for either my sister or my parents, all of which are not all that well off.
posted by GeneticFreek at 3:31 PM on August 25, 2005

Every situation is different. Some places have rules and regs about families, fees to live there etc. Shop around and see what you find!

Co-op might not be the best term for what you are looking for. They are also called co-housing communities, intentional communities, etc.

My partner and I lived in an intentional community that was about 8 people in size. There was another couple, some single folk, and some kids. It eventually grew too large for the space and everyone had to move on. The rent there was shared, and there was no minimum income level per se, you just had to be committed to living there and able to afford the rent/utils. We had two homes side by side, a carrage house, a mother-daughter apartment. There was a lot of space for everyone, including the tortoise, bunny, three dogs, three cats and garden.

My most powerful self growth and friendships came from living in this fashion.

Most of those folks have now moved on to a much larger co-housing community. There are 30 houses there and one shared community space. They have all sorts of activities, garden, etc. Most people have purchased the homes they live in, but there are many rentals available, of different sizes and costs.

Good luck in your search! I say go for it! Even if you only do it for a year or two.
posted by dhammala at 8:44 PM on August 25, 2005

We live in a co-op in Ontario. Like GeneticFreek said above, every co-op really varies, in culture and in what they're looking for. My answers are based on our experience only, of course.

In our co-op, diversity is absolutely encouraged in the membership; we have a little of everything - by race, income, orientation (a third of our members are gay) - couples with kids, couples without, single parents, singles, students, elderly, etc. Which is one of the biggest reasons we chose to move here.

Here, if you can pay the market value for the apartment, you can get whatever size you want that's available, no matter how many or few people will be living in it. Limiting apartment size is only based on subsidies, as in, if you are receiving assistance, you will only get as much apartment as they think you need (hence, a 1 bdrm for a couple without kids). Perhaps some other co-ops might want to make sure the bigger apartments are available for people that need more room, and that's why you're seeing those limitations, but I would ask and see if that restriction is only for those needing a subsidy.

AFAIK the minimum income is based on the collective income of all members residing in the apartment. So you should be fine, unless one of you moves out, then you'd have to reevaluate.

The community participation is important, since things can fall apart without it, so look for that. But based on our experience so far, I'd recommend it. It's almost impossible not to meet people and get involved. Also the level of autonomy and transparency is good too, as to decisions affecting the complex, budgets, and so on.
posted by Melinika at 8:57 PM on August 25, 2005

I'm on the board of my co-op here in Ann Arbor, and we have 360 units (1,2,3 and 4 beds) and all I can say is that every co-op is different. Also, in the US, it's illegal to discriminate based on family composition, and it'll get you sued big time.
Is this a multiple-unit co-op you're looking into or a single-unit many beds sort of thing?
Write me an email, and I can give you all sorts of info on what to look for, if you give me a little bit about what you want...
posted by klangklangston at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2005

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