Measuring the Cooperative Difference in Affordable Housing

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Leviten-Reid, Catherine
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Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network
This presentation outlines the results of three research projects related to the co-operative difference in affordable housing. The first, a comparative case study by Dr. Catherine Leviten-Reid and Alicia Lake explores differences between three different affordable housing complexes for seniors - one a non-profit, one a co-operative and one a for-profit. Through the analysis of interviews with stakeholders, the research team explored the ways in which the development processes and the personal experiences of the residents differed in the three cases. In this study, many differences were found between the third sector (non-profit and co-op) housing developments and the for-profit housing development. The most striking differences related to the social mission of the organizations and the community orientation of the housing, particularly in their creation of sustainable community atmospheres and better social living environments. These findings echo existing research that concludes that third sector organizations are more likely to pursue social objectives. The second project explored how volunteering within a housing co-op predicts the development of residents’ capabilities, the strengthening of their social ties, and their ability to influence decisions about the housing in which they live. Data was taken from an evaluation of Canadian co-op housing programs published in 2003. Residents were asked whether they participated on the board, engaged in operational activities, and/or planned social events. They responded to questions such as whether they had gained more personal connections, developed financial skills, or gained ability to influence decisions about their housing. Researchers found that volunteering in the context of housing co-operatives appears to be beneficial for those who get involved, and are consistent with the existing literature which finds positives effects on skills and social connections. In the third project, researchers conducted semi-structured interviews among 6 housing co-ops, speaking with co-op staff, older members, and “young” members (aged 25 to 32). Researchers looked at how young members benefit when they volunteer on housing co-op boards or committees, and how housing co-ops benefit when younger members become involved. The study found that the engagement of young members in the governance of their housing co-operatives offers numerous benefits to both those young members (in skills, experiences) and their housing co-operatives (in new ideas and energy). See also the final research papers: Leviten-Reid, Catherine & Lake, Alicia & Campbell, Robert. (2015). Exploring Organizational Form in the Affordable Rental Housing Sector. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations. 27. 10.1007/s11266-015-9658-z. Leviten-Reid, Catherine & Campbell, Robert. (2016). Volunteer roles and the benefits of volunteering: An examination of nonprofit housing cooperatives. Community Development. 1-17. 10.1080/15575330.2015.1134609.