Many people – people who know better – are attacking Olivia Chow today because she’s going to run for mayor, because she’s a formidable presence and because she’s a real threat to their own candidates. One of the smears they like to use is to say that she lived in a housing co-op, which she and her late husband did many, many years ago. But then they tell a bald-faced lie and say that their rent was subsidized. The very people making these attacks wouldn’t deign to come within a large city block of one, so I will explain co-op housing to you, because I have. I lived in a housing co-op while supporting myself and my children, struggling to finish my undergraduate degree.
Housing co-ops are a community, which is why so many people like to live in them. You will find people from a variety of backgrounds with a range of income levels. People who do okay financially and people – like me – who weren’t sure how they were going to pay the hydro bill or buy diapers.
We all paid different rents, and we paid according to income level. I paid just a few hundred bucks a month for rent (back in the Okanagan). Others paid substantially more than that, which is called “market value” rent. It’s what one would pay if they were renting a comparable place elsewhere in the area, that wasn’t a housing co-op. The people who paid the most essentially helped out those of us who couldn’t pay more. And we all contributed to the upkeep and maintenance of the co-op – we took great pride in our vegetable garden, our small orchard and the kids’ playground we raised money for and built ourselves. Even though we all paid different rents, we were all equal members of our co-operative, our community.
Those people who’ve lived in housing co-ops understand what a remarkable place they can be. Those who haven’t, and who are trying to spread misinformation about Olivia Chow and Jack Layton, are trying to exploit the fact that not many people do know how co-ops works. That’s why you’re reading the garbage you are.
Olivia and Jack never received subsidized housing. They always paid their full share. Anything else you read or hear is a complete and total lie.