The Agency has signed an agreement with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to take on some of CMHC’s work with non-profit housing co-operatives. The Agency combines a fresh approach to program administration with excellent service, bringing significant benefits to all stakeholders.
The Agency’s mandate is
- to ensure that public funds committed for co-operative housing programs are used as intended and are properly accounted for
- to safeguard the public’s investment in co-operative housing.
Within the limits imposed by the terms of its agreement with CMHC, the Agency administers federal co-operative housing programs in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, and the operating agreements of co-ops coming under CMHC’s urban-native programs. The Agency took on this work in phases.
The Agency’s agreement with CMHC calls for it to
- give information about the federal co-op housing programs to co-ops and other stakeholders
- monitor whether co-ops are abiding by the terms of their operating agreement with CMHC
- review co-op financial results each year
- reconcile each Section 95 co-op’s subsidy each year
- approve operating budgets, where co-op agreements with CMHC require it
- approve replacement-reserve plans, spending and contribution rates, where agreements require it
- perform a visual inspection of each co-op every two years or as appropriate
- rate co-ops every year on whether they are at risk of sliding into financial difficulties
- help co-ops that are struggling to meet their financial obligations.
Some co-ops are funded under programs that CMHC does not administer. These co-ops do not come under the Agency.
- Provincial co-op programs are still administered by the province.
- Municipal co-op programs (SHRA co-operatives) are still administered by the municipality.
In Quebec the federal-program co-ops will remain with CMHC. Some federal-program co-ops in special circumstances, such as British Columbia’s leaky co-ops, are gradually moving over to the Agency as work on their buildings is completed. (The leaky co-ops, like many condominiums in the coastal area, suffered from catastrophic building envelope failure.)
The Agency does not concern itself with co-op governance or democratic functioning, unless problems put the co-op’s loans at risk. The Agency usually refers co-ops with governance issues to the appropriate federation of housing co-operatives or to CHF Canada.
The Agency does not undertake certain kinds of financial procedure. CMHC continues to
- hold subsidy monies and distribute them to co-ops
- administer co-op mortgage loans
- approve new co-op loans
- handle mortgage-insurance claims.
The Agency does not set federal housing policy nor change program policies or agreements between housing co-ops and the government.
The Agency had expected to undertake several additional services anticipated under our agreement with CMHC:
- administer CMHC rent-supplement programs for co-ops in Alberta, Ontario and PEI
- calculate the amount of assistance due to co-ops under their operating agreements with CMHC
- offer benchmarking and best practices from co-ops to co-ops.
The first two services remain with CMHC. For the third – a new service – no funds are available for full program delivery. However, in 2011 and 2012, with support from the Co-operative Secretariat’s Co-operative Development Initiative, the Agency undertook to develop the benchmarking and best-practices service as a pilot project.
The Agency’s expanded Co-op Data Report currently delivers much of the information originally intended for the benchmarking services. However, a new website provides even more comparables, while allowing co-ops to select their own group of peers for comparison.
Best practices offers housing co-operatives something different. Co-ops with a history of success in a particular area shared some secrets and told some stories, which we posted on the new website. Their examples provide a practical guide to better performance.