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'Tried and tested': Kamloops cooperative to provide affordable housing in midst of crisis

The team at Propolis Housing Cooperative, a non-profit group in Kamloops working to build below market rentals.
The team at Propolis Housing Cooperative, a non-profit group in Kamloops working to build below market rentals.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Lindsay Harris

A new housing initiative has emerged in Kamloops in response to the housing crisis with an aim to help meet housing targets recently mandated by the province.

Propolis Housing Cooperative was co-founded by Lindsay Harris who sees the “tried and tested” cooperative housing model as a new opportunity for the city.

“Cooperative housing is a great vehicle that targets a point on the housing continuum no one else is working on,” Harris said.

In May, Kamloops was put on the top ten list of communities in BC in the most need for housing, and just last month the province released a target of 4,236 news homes to be built in the next five years in the city, including 1,320 that need to be below market rentals. 

Harris believes cooperative housing can help meet the below rental market targets.

“We have a lot of development of new market rate housing and organizations working on subsidized or supportive housing, but not for young adults, students, new working professionals and working families that are priced out of the market," she said. "Cooperative housing can bring more affordability for those kinds of people.”

In June, Propolis announced a planned development project to get 50 affordable, zero-net homes built built in a six-storey mixed-use development where all units will operate as non-profit cooperative housing priced below market rents. A bond campaign worth $1.1 million was launched to finance the purchase of a piece of property.

Community bonds are an innovation with financial and social returns. Anyone can invest and there is a set term and a fixed interest rate. Over time, investors get the principal and interest paid back.

“The bonds are issued by a cooperative like us and we are able to use those investment dollars to cover the purchase and cost of our first property,” Harris said. “I love the inclusivity of the model, it helps people knowing they can make an investment and contribute to more affordable housing to Kamloops.”

The bonds are on sale in BC and Ontario and will soon be available in Manitoba.

Harris’ team is working in collaboration with the owner at Nexbuild Construction Corporation who specializes in net zero building strategies.

“We are working as fast as we can to hit our target and complete the property purchase this fall, then we have to do detailed planning and architectural drawings. We‘re keen to get going on that part.”

Propolis has a purchase agreement for a piece of land on the corner of Aspen Road and Tranquille Road on the North Shore. Harris said the City of Kamloops has been supportive of the project.

“There is a used piece of roadway attached to the property, and the city is arranging with us the sale of that piece for a dollar to make room for a better building,” she said. “The city is willing to partner with us to make that happen.”

Harris is the co-founder of Propolis Housing Cooperative and president of its board. She also works for the Kamloops Food Policy Council and has a background in economic development.

“In working with the food council trying to bring more food security I realized housing and food security are interconnected we can’t solve one without tackling the other.”

READ MORE: Rent drops in Kelowna but still more than $2,000 per month

She said a lot of different types of housing are needed to meet the targets set by the province, and cooperative housing can be a “significant contributor” to below market rental requirements.

“Cooperative housing is a tried and tested model with lots built across Canada in the 70s and 80s with more targeted government investment to bring it to life,” she said. “In more recent years there hasn’t been a lot of coop development. It’s a tried and tested model but at the same time its breaking new ground at least for Kamloops.”

READ MORE: BC slaps Kamloops with new housing target that doesn't add up

She said the goal for Propolis is to develop housing in Kamloops over the long term and ultimately manage a housing network.

Go here for more information on Propolis Housing Cooperative.

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