Peter Valk of the Stuart Lake Housing Co-op holds up their certificate of incorporation.

Housing co-op moves to build membership

Nineteen members and four guests came out for the Stuart Lake Housing Co-op annual general meeting on April 8.

Nineteen members and four guests came out for the Stuart Lake Housing Co-op annual general meeting on April 8.

The meeting at the Stuart Lake Seniors Recreation Centre was the first after the official incorporation of the organization.

Since starting out last year, the group has 117 members, with just one serious membership drive, and at the AGM, the membership moved to continue to focus on increasing membership rather than beginning to seek out capital funds to begin the next phase to begin purchasing land for construction of a co-operative housing project. The housing, while originally aimed specifically at seniors, will not necessarily be limited to seniors housing but will start out to address this shortage.

The group also said the “trickle down” effect of building housing which could allow seniors to move out of their houses would then also lead to freeing up more homes for sale for families and younger people.

The discussion on the next steps led to the suggestion to focus on increasing membership while the group applies for grants to get a business plan done and a comprehensive evaluation of available properties. Those at the meeting felt this would make it easier to ask companies and individuals for funds because there would be a clear plan in place.

One of the options the group is looking at is requesting debentures, which are a loan without any collateral. Debentures would then be paid back on agreed terms over a certain period of time. They were used to build the curling rink and the ski hill, according to those at the meeting.

The group also moved to apply for a charity number in anticipation of future fundraising.

Peter Valk, chairperson of the co-op board, said they are looking at seven or eight possible properties for the project, should it move forward, and because the properties vary so much they will need to be evaluated by an independent person.

He didn’t want to cause speculation and so did not disclose the properties they are looking at, but said some have services some have buildings which would need to be torn down and some are raw land without sewer or water services.

“We have a tremendous range,” he said. “I was surprised by the number of properties that came floating to the top.”

At their last meeting, the group adopted their vision and mission statements.

The group’s mission statement is: “To provide quality, affordable housing in the District of Fort St. James and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako Area C.”

For more information on co-ops, their goals and how they work, go to the Brtiish Columbia Co-operative Association website at: bcca.coop