After making the final mortgage payment in 2015, the year it celebrated its 35th anniversary, the Co-operative Rayon de l’Avenir is now able to plan for major renovations of its 21 units.
“We have a positive balance sheet. Our mortgage debt is paid off,” said Jean-François Labonté, a co-operative member since 1999. About 60 residents call the co-op home.
Labonté, who chaired the Board of Directors from April 2007 to June 2015, says the co-operative's finances were not always flourishing, particularly in the early 2000s. Things started to turn around, however, when the co-op used a federal subsidy to pay for the replacement of the oil heating system. The change to natural gas furnaces has resulted in annual savings of more than $20,000 for the co-op.
Starting in 2007, there was also a change in culture at the co-operative. The directors listened to the advice of the Fédération des coopératives d’habitation montérégiennes (FECHAM) and followed CMHC’s recommendation to plan for capital replacement projects. The group used CMHC’s capital replacement planning spreadsheet, a Microsoft Excel table, to record building components, their life cycle and their costs. This tool was also used for estimating amounts to put in the reserve fund to repair or replace multi-unit residential building components and equipment.
The spreadsheet gave rise to the co-operative’s long-term renovation plan. In 2014, the co-op completely renovated 9 units, and plans to renovate the remaining units over the next 25 years.
Looking to the future, the Board of Directors approved a rent increase of $12 per month over five years. According to Labonté, this measure will protect the co-operative from unpleasant surprises and will ensure that it always has the funds it needs for renovations.
Recently, the Coopérative Rayon de l’Avenir was recognized for its efforts and good work when it received FECHAM’s “Bons Coups Co-op” recognition award (first prize of $700).
“What sets our co-operative apart is member involvement. People are not afraid to help out and this allows us not only to have better administration, but also to complete major work. Involvement allows them to strengthen ties with other members and they get to know one another better. In the end, everyone is working toward a common goal,” said Labonté.