Pete Valk speaks to some interested community members about the possibility of a senior’s housing co-op.

Housing co-op in progress

An information session at the Stuart Lake Seniors Centre on Oct. 16 saw 19 people come out to hear about proposed co-op housing for seniors.

The fastest growing demographic in rural Canada is not about to sit idle and not take any action to ensure the housing they need is there when they need it – not in Fort St. James anyhow.

A group is looking at creating a senior’s housing co-op in the community.

An information session at the Stuart Lake Seniors Centre on Oct. 16 saw 19 people come out to hear about the idea.

The small committee which has been working on the background research to see if seniors’ co-op housing may be a viable option in the community, put on a presentation led by Pete Valk.

The group had already conducted a survey in the community and 36 people had responded to their housing survey.

A full 69 per cent of respondents said they were interested in co-op housing as an option.

A clear majority (86 per cent) were interested in two bedroom units of 850-900 square feet.

The group has already looked at possible available properties in the community in order to ensure there would be property available for the higher density housing being proposed and the District of Fort St. James provided a list of properties already zoned for this type of development.

The session helped to provide information to people interested in the project, either as possible future residents or as investors.

Co-operative ventures are investments which essentially borrow equity from each investor and then members get returns based on the equity they have put in.

Because co-operatives are democratic in their structure, the members would help to determine how the structure of the co-op would work and some of the rules around putting money in or taking it out.

The committee said equity investments can still be inherited and willed with an estate, though there may be rules about how quickly shares can be liquidated.

While there is still a long way to go before housing would happen, the current committee is now working on a membership drive to get people to join the co-op and then elect an actual board of directors and register the co-op in order to get rolling.

“I think it’s an interesting journey,” said Pete Valk at the meeting, of the work the existing committee had done so far.

In order to go further, the group has set a target of selling 50 $10 memberships by Nov. 4, and on their first afternoon of the membership drive at Integris on Oct. 17, the group had already reached 45 members.

“There’s a ton of work to do,” said Sandra Davidson, a member of the committee.

Once the co-op is registered, the group will investigate funding sources and begin selling equity shares to those who want to invest.

While the current proposal is different than the one previously brought forward in November 2012 by another group, this committee is still in close contact with both the property owners of the original proposal and the architect, however, they would want the members to make the final decisions on where the housing might be built should they go forward with it and just how it would look.

The group will be reassessing timelines as they go, but they have set a tentative goal to reach incorporation by the end of the year and should everything else go as hoped, they could even look at building within the next year or two.

For more information on the project, people can contact Pete Valk at 996-7018, Judy Greenaway at 996-8484 or Sandra Davidson at 996-6878.