Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 29, 2004
Housing co-op rooted in religious orders' loan
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Inn Roads Housing Cooperative, a five-house co-op in Edmonton's downtown McCauley area, owes its existence to the Canadian Alternative Investment Cooperative (CAIC), a Toronto-based investment firm set up by a group of religious communities.
When all the banks and credit unions said no, CAIC said yes, thus allowing the co-op founders to realize their dream. Eighteen years ago CAIC provided a mortgage for the co-op's first two houses and in September it advanced another $30,000 to make necessary repairs to the residences. This is the second "second mortgage" for repairs that CAIC has provided the co-op over the years.
"Without CAIC this co-op would have never gotten off the ground," said Rosalie Gelderman, a co-op co-founder and member since 1985. "CAIC enabled us to be a presence in the neighbourhood and to be an active part of the inner city."
The idea of forming a co-op came to Gelderman and her friend Bob McKeon, a Newman Theological College professor, soon after they moved into the inner city in the late 1970s as part of a Christian missionary movement.
Gelderman lived in one communal house with one group and McKeon lived in another with his wife and other singles and families.
They had made a commitment to the inner city but wanting to get away from renting, they decided to buy the houses they lived in. Forming a cooperative made sense because the federal government had set a special fund for that purpose.
But when they were ready to act, in the early 1980s, the government had gotten away from co-op housing, forcing them to look for other funding sources. "Then we decided to start a co-op outside the government," McKeon recalled. "We approached various lenders and most of them said no." Even CMHC rejected their proposal.
But CAIC said yes, allowing the co-op members to buy Scarboro House, where McKeon lived, and Kabode House, where Gelderman lived. Both houses were built in 1910. They bought Scarboro for about $75,000.
Since none of the original co-op members had much money, they had to turn to friends to raise the 25 per cent required to qualify for CAIC's mortgage. Over the years the co-op would buy three additional houses. About 25 people, mostly single, live in the co-op's five houses. All the houses are divided in separate units - 14 in total.
Members participate in co-op activities and work with the surrounding neighbourhood.
"We have been able to provide stable, affordable housing," noted McKeon, who still lives at Scarboro. "Life has been good here. I raised two kids, now 26 years old."
Since co-op members are their own landlords, rents are not going up soon, McKeon said. "We control that."
Gelderman, a social worker at Operation Friendship, still lives at Kabode House, which she shares with three other residents. She said living in cooperative housing has made her life richer and freer.
Because housing is affordable she has been able to reduce her working week from five to four days to dedicate more time to volunteering and to pursue music, one of her many personal interests. "I definitely enjoy living here," she said.
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