Co-operative living in Wolseley: Province commits to funding for low-income co-op suites

By: Alana Trachenko

As published in The Metro

Novemeber 16, 2015

A local housing co-operative just received a sizable funding boost.

On Nov. 4, Premier Greg Selinger announced Old Grace Housing Co-operative will receive $70,000 for each of its 30 low-income suites.

Construction on the 59-suite co-op will begin in June 2016 and will be open to members in the second half of 2018.

The building, designed by Prairie Architects, will be located at the site of the old Grace Hospital at 189 Evanson St. in the heart of Wolseley.

Laura Sevenhuysen, one of the co-op’s vice presidents said that besides the 30 low-income suites, the building will also include 12 rent-assist suites and several accessible suites as well. Sevenhuysen along with the board of directors hopes to make the residence appealing to a variety of people.

"We’re consciously multi-age, multi-generational, multi-income and multi-ethnic because we’re not trying to build a senior’s complex," Sevenhuysen said. While 60 per cent of the members are 55 and older, younger families and individuals are encouraged to become members as well.

"Housing co-ops that are built for 55-plus are great when everyone’s 55-plus but 30 years later, everybody’s 85-plus and they have some major problems at that point, just with running the place," she said. "We are learning from the experience of others and trying to make it multi-generational.

Co-ops were more common in Winnipeg in the ’70s, when the federal government provided more funding than they do today. But in many other countries they are a popular choice for young and old, mainly because of the communal aspect and the built-in security.

Unlike condos, members don’t own their units in the co-op, which means they won’t make a profit off of it if they choose to leave. But for many, it is a far more stable living situation than renting, which requires a lease to be resigned every year. Once you become a member at a co-op and pay your member’s share, you are able to live there indefinitely.

"The main thing is stability," Sevenhuysen said. "A lot of peoples’ experience of rental apartments is that it’s fine and they have to move, it’s fine and then the rent goes up. Especially if they have children it’s very disruptive to the family to move every year."

Probably the biggest difference between living in a co-op and living in an apartment is the chance to interact with your neighbours. While the units are smaller than some apartments, every floor features a common area where residents can spend time with one another.

"It’s not as though you have to sit around the fire and sing Kumbaya, but the building is designed so that people cross paths, they interact with each other," Sevenhuysen said. "That way people are comfortable, they know who lives in the complex, they know each other, it’s more neighbourly."

For many members, another bonus is that the co-op is in a location that is walking distance from downtown and close to major bus routes.

"Wolseley is a very walking- and people-oriented community and members don’t want to move away and lose that," she said. "So you’ve got people who are kind of urban-oriented than typically go into a suburban co-op."

According to Sevenhuysen, monthly housing charges are estimated as the following: one bedroom, $889; two bedroom, $1135; three bedroom, $1,254.