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Involving Tenants in Decision-Making

Tannery Court — Various Municipalities, New Brunswick

Goal

Provide affordable housing that offers an enhanced quality of life, helping residents to regain control over their lives and participate in decisions relating to their residence.

Target Group

Single people at risk of homelessness.

Synopsis

Tannery Court Co-operative, which is part of the Co-op Atlantic group of managed properties, offers housing targeted to singles who are at risk and in need. The six Tannery Court projects are operated on co-operative housing principles to foster independence and self-growth among the residents and engage them in decision making and operations. Three of the projects are in Fredericton, two in Moncton and one in Saint John.

Description

Background and Context

Low-income singles account for over 70 per cent of people on the assisted housing waiting list in the Greater Moncton area, the location of the first Tannery Court project. Co-op Atlantic’s real estate subsidiary, Avide Developments, a fully integrated property developer, created the Tannery Court Co­operative in 2004 to address this unmet need for affordable housing.

The Tannery Court projects were conceived and developed by Avide, which continues to be involved in their management. As of 2014, six projects were operating under the Tannery Court banner, providing affordable housing for 267 low-income singles and elderly people in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John.


Tannery Court, Moncton
Source: CMHC

How it Works

The Tannery Court projects are targeted to low-income singles, many of whom have been facing challenges in their lives—some having spent time living on the street or in rooming houses, many unable to work because of illness or injury, and others facing mental health challenges or being down on their luck for other reasons. This mix can make it a challenge to engage the tenants in the running of the building and the decisions affecting its operation. Tannery Court is intended to be a place where residents can enjoy a safe and supportive housing environment in order to get their lives back on track again. Engagement with others facing similar challenges, self-help, and involvement in decisions concerning their residence are viewed as an essential part of this process.

Involvement of residents in decision making has not just been advantageous to the tenants. Avide has been keen to go beyond token involvement and “make work” tasks. As a result, tenant involvement has made a meaningful contribution to the operation not only of the particular facility that a resident lives in but also of Tannery Court developments as a whole.

The six Tannery Court projects share a common board of directors. This is both more efficient and more affordable in terms of management costs. During the growth from one project in Moncton, with 40 residents, to six operating projects, with their 267 residents, tenants from the first two buildings sat on the board, helping to guide the expansion of the Tannery Court network of residences.


  Tannery Court, Fredericton
Source: ThermalWise

Tannery Court has encouraged and supported tenants in the running of social committees and the organization of social events and outings. Tenants have also played an important role in reassuring the public and, in particular, local residents, who might be concerned about the possible impacts of the planned Tannery Court developments on the community. This has taken the form of tenant attendance at public meetings to answer questions and discuss how their housing integrates into the community.

In fact, the contribution of Tannery Court residents has not been limited to their own housing. Some have given back to the community. A study by researchers at the University of New Brunswick and the Université de Moncton found that 37 per cent of respondents reported doing volunteer work in the community (at the local food bank, in outreach services, etc.).

In the same study, 67 per cent of the respondents reported that there was a sense of community within the building, expressed though various activities (cleaning common areas, doing yard work, etc.).

Avide Developments emphasizes the importance of listening to the tenants and responding to the particular needs and preferences in each Tannery Court project. Tenants make their views known through general tenant meetings, at which issues of concern to management and tenants are discussed. Open discussion of issues is encouraged, so that tenants can provide feedback and make suggestions.

Responding to resident preferences means that each residence is unique in the extent and nature of tenant involvement. In some of the projects, Tannery Court has used a voucher system to reward tenants performing work around the building, such as painting and gardening. The vouchers can be exchanged for products at the local grocery store. The provision of rewards for work performed can play a role in reinforcing feelings of self-worth and usefulness, particularly for those who have experienced difficulty in obtaining paid work in the outside world.

Notable initiatives in giving tenants control and demonstrating confidence in them have been incidences of having a tenant take over responsibilities during a superintendent’s vacation.

Clients

The Seventh Report Card on Homelessness in Greater Moncton, the location of two of the Tannery Court projects, states that, out of a population of 138,644 in the area in 2013, 1,611 people were on the waiting list for assisted housing, and 781 different people were admitted to homeless shelters.

The profile of the 267 low-income singles at the six Tannery Court projects reflects both the population at risk of homelessness and also those already in that situation. As reported by the Saint John Human Development Council in its 2013 report, Experiencing Homelessness in Saint John, the causes linked to homelessness include a combination of social and personal factors, such as:

  • untreated mental illness and addiction;
  • unresolved physical disability issues;
  • family disputes or marital breakdown;
  • lack of family support;
  • lack of safe and affordable housing;
  • low or inadequate income;
  • being between jobs;
  • low literacy;
  • youth leaving foster care;
  • release from correctional or health institutions without a plan; and
  • transient population (travellers).

The study Not Just an Apartment Building confirmed that these factors were instrumental in bringing many of the clients to Tannery Court projects. It found that some residents had been living on the street, in unheated apartments or trailers, or in situations where they were abused by family members. For others, their previous housing had become too expensive for either them or their relatives to manage. Still others had experienced a crisis in personal life, job loss or a breakdown in physical or mental health.

Partners

Co-op Atlantic, of which Avide Developments is a subsidiary, is the second largest regional co-operative wholesaler in Canada and the largest co-operative in Atlantic Canada. It is held by more than 100 co­operatively owned businesses across the Atlantic Provinces and the Magdalen Islands. It provides food, agricultural, energy, and social housing and real estate services to organizations and businesses in more than 150 communities in the region.

Avide Developments is a fully integrated developer of residential and commercial property. Its activities range from land and real estate development to design-build projects and property management.

The other key partners in the development of the projects have been all three levels of government.

Financing

The Tannery Court projects have been made possible thanks to capital grants from the Government of Canada through CMHC, as well as provincial and municipal assistance — including provincial rent-geared-to-income subsidies and the provision of land by municipalities. Mortgage financing options have included special flexible financing arrangements available to affordable housing projects through CMHC mortgage insurance.

Operating costs for the projects are kept in check by building to high energy standards. A Tannery Court project in Fredericton was Atlantic Canada’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® certified apartment building in the multi-family housing category.

Awards and Recognition

Tannery Court in Moncton received the Canadian Home Builder’s Association — New Brunswick Energy Efficient Community Award in 2007. Tannery Court and Avide also received the 2011 award for Affordable Housing and Energy Efficient Design from the City of Fredericton.

Impact on the Provision of Affordable Housing

The Tannery Court developments have succeeded in making a difference in the lives of their residents. The study Not Just an Apartment Building found that, based on the responses of the tenants who were interviewed, six dimensions of quality of life had improved significantly. These were “life in general,” housing, neighbourhood, self-confidence, food and financial situation. A total of 91 per cent of the residents in the Fredericton project and 85 per cent in Moncton confirmed that they would recommend Tannery Court to a friend or family member.

Savings are achieved through regular participation of residents in maintenance and upkeep, which includes activities such as gardening, general yard work and snow shovelling. Savings are also achieved through participation of residents in operations and management, which includes participating on the board and in resident committees.

The voucher system used has achieved savings compared to employing outside labour for tasks to be accomplished.

Involvement of residents in operations and decision making has impacted affordability both by the work undertaken and by the sense of ownership and community given to residents, thus ensuring greater care is taken of the property.

Assistance provided in reassuring local residents concerned about neighbourhood impacts of planned Tannery Court developments has helped ease the way for the creation of more affordable housing. Likewise, input of tenants’ ideas on possible improvements to the facilities has resulted in making them more livable.

Suitability for Replication

  • Replication in other jurisdictions would require a property manager willing to work with tenants, many of whom are facing challenges in their lives, and to encourage them to participate actively in running the property.
  • Similar projects would require preparedness from the developers to meet with local community groups, and effectively address their concerns about the impact of the projects on the community.
  • There has to be a willingness to provide tenants with an opportunity to indicate their needs and wants, and respond to them. Watching people turn their lives around, grow, and give back is the reward for taking on the challenge.

Related Strategies

Sources of Further Information

  1. For additional information regarding Tannery Court, see CMHC’s Project Profile Tannery Court.
  2. For additional information regarding Co-op Atlantic, see http://www.coopatlantic.ca.
  3. Experiencing Homelessness in Saint John, Saint John Human Development Council, 2013.
  4. Not Just an Apartment Building: Residents’ Quality of Life in a Social Housing Co-operative, Thériault, Leclerc, Wisniewski, Chouinard, and Martin, University of New Brunswick and Université de Moncton, 2010.
  5. The Seventh Report Card on Homelessness in Greater Moncton, Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee, 2014.
  6. City Presents Development Awards to 11 Exemplary Projects, City of Fredericton, 2011.

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