Downtown Eastside housing co-op warns financial strain near a breaking point

Lore Krill Housing Co-operative board members accuse their government partner of failing to fund the organization with enough to maintain operations

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      In two buildings in the Downtown Eastside, the Lore Krill Housing Co-operative serves as a home to 63 people with disabilities, 41 seniors, and some 300 other residents who come from a mix of income levels. It’s one of the largest co-ops in Vancouver, providing an increasingly rare commodity: affordable housing. But co-op board members are sounding an alarm, warning it might not be around for much longer.

      “At this point, the co-op is very close to insolvency,” the Lore Krill’s treasurer, Coco Culbertson, told the Straight. “We’re running a constant deficit.”

      According to financial information provided by the co-op, the Lore Krill had a small surplus of funds in 2012. But since then, it’s operated at a deficit that’s grown slightly each year, to a projected $500,000 by the end of 2018.

      In a separate interview, Thomas Robson, a board member and former co-op president, explained the issue is the amount of funding that the co-op receives from BC Housing. He claimed that it’s simply not enough to maintain operations.

      “We’re going broke,” Robson said. “There is a contract between our co-op and BC Housing and it says that both parties will do certain things. They are not doing the things that they are supposed to do. And the biggest part of that is through the subsidy mechanism.”

      The Lore Krill’s two buildings are located at 65 West Cordova Street and 230 East Georgia Street. The co-op is planning an event for May 26 with the goal of bringing attention to financial challenges faced by housing co-ops.

      “The Lore Krill Housing Co-op has come under a very real threat due to systemic underfunding and a broken relationship with BC Housing,” reads a draft flier for the event.

      In a telephone interview, BC Housing vice-president of operations Craig Crawford expressed optimism and maintained the Lore Krill’s financial problems will soon be resolved.

       “We are certainly willing to work with them to develop a sustainable financial plan,” he told the Straight. "I think that we’ll be able to work with them to maintain the co-op in a viable form."

      Crawford took issue with the suggestion that the Lore Krill’s challenges are the result of funding shortfalls.

      "We don’t believe it’s necessarily an issue exclusively of subsidies,” he explained. “There are some revenue and expense issues in their budget that we would like to explore with them.”

      Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., told the Straight he couldn't comment on the specifics of the Lore Krill but noted some co-ops do encounter challenges.

      "The Homes BC program is complex," he said in reference to the Lore Krill's arrangement with BC Housing. "Some co-ops do very well under it, others struggle. The difference is always something very specific to each co-op."

      Culbertson continued to express concern. She said that the co-op’s funding gap has steadily widened to a point where it’s no longer manageable.

      “BC Housing kept egregiously underfunding us, until where we’re at a point now where we have no surplus, no RRF [replacement reserve fund], and we have some major capital improvements that need to be done to the building,” she said.