Protecting Your Co-op during COVID-19

26 March 2020

The Agency sent the notice below to all its clients on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

While this new reality lasts, your co-op will need to keep things moving as much as possible. The situation is evolving every day, but here is what we know now.

Keep your members safe

We encourage our co-op housing clients and stakeholders to put the safety and well-being of their members and staff first. Canada’s Public Health Agency has recommended a variety of tactics that you can adapt to keep your members as safe as possible.

  • Stay home, and encourage members to do the same.
  • Focus on cleaning the touch points in all common areas, including elevators, door handles, countertops, washroom surfaces and anywhere members may spend time. High-touch areas should be cleaned at least three times a day.
  • Insist on social distancing—keeping two metres (about 6.5 feet) apart.
  • Postpone all events, including co-op meetings and social events.
  • Promote slow, careful hand washing with soap.
  • Check on your vulnerable members, while keeping at a safe distance.

As much as possible continue doing co-op business

Now more than ever, your vendors are relying on your co-op’s payments to feed their families. Please continue to pay your co-op’s bills on time.

All co-ops must strike a balance between supporting the needs of their members and the co-op’s financial health. Contact your relationship manager to discuss your options.

Continue to collect housing charges wherever possible. We understand that the pandemic means lay-offs or loss of income for some members. Encourage members affected by job losses to pay as much as they can, when they can and try to get back on track as quickly as they can.

CMHC has assured co-ops that subsidy funds will continue uninterrupted.  So offer rent-geared-to-income assistance wherever possible. Many S95 co-ops with a Subsidy Surplus Fund can use that resource to provide temporary assistance for their members. ILM co-ops have Security of Tenure Funds for short-term relief. While some co-op may feel that these funds should be saved for a rainy day, there’s a downpour out there right now.

The federal government has announced financial support for Canadians, which you can read about here. However, arranging new income supports will take time. If possible, use this opportunity to sign members up for housing-charge payment through automatic withdrawal (not e-transfers, which the Agency actively discourages).

Can’t make your mortgage payment? CMHC is offering mortgage deferrals and enabling other lenders to do the same. This means that your co-op can put off paying its mortgage until later. (However, interest charges will be applied.)  Contact your relationship manager if you think your co-op may not be able to make its next mortgage payment.

Social distancing can save lives, but is impossible at in-person co-op meetings. That means AGMs and members meetings to approve budgets and housing charges can’t take place. Check with CHF Canada or your regional federation for advice about holding members meetings.

By using teleconferences or video conferences, boards of directors can meet to carry out essential business. Your board should find time to make some contingency plans for how you would operate under various scenarios. (What if your president and vice-president both got sick, for example? Or your manager?)

Co-ops should not start any evictions during the pandemic, even if you believe an eviction would be for the good of your co-op. In Ontario, the Landlord and Tenant Tribunal is temporarily closed.

Communicating with your Auditor

The pandemic may coincide with the timing of your annual audit. If so, get in touch with your auditor right away to discuss next steps. Some audit firms are trying to offer uninterrupted service, even while their employees work from home. Auditors may be able to complete their audit remotely, but you will need to make arrangements to send them your co-op’s records. Speak to your relationship manager if you think your annual filing with the Agency may be late.

Our Housing Partners

The Agency is working with our sector partners to bring you as much information as possible. We now have a special webpage to help our clients stay current on all Covid-19 related matters. Read CHF Canada’s recent FAQ Related to Housing Co-ops and COVID-19, CHF BC’s  Helping Members in Financial Distress and continue to check all sector partner websites often.

For the latest news, follow the Agency on our social media channels for regular updates related to COVID-19 and your co-op.  

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