Our Cooperative and Its Mission
Most off-campus housing options in Toronto are owned and controlled by a landlord, whose goal is to earn as much profit as possible from their business. To do so, a landlord will charge tenants as much rent as they can, given the available supply of housing and the amount of demand for it.
Here in Toronto, housing is scarce and in great demand, so rents are high. A landlord will hire staff or contractors to maintain their property, charging the tenants for the expenses as part of their rent. After the landlord pays all these operating expenses, any surplus money left over is kept by the landlord as profit to do with as they wish.
Campus Cooperative Residences Incorporated (CCRI) was founded by students to allow students of Toronto area universities to live affordably, and with a high quality of life in the downtown Toronto area by owning their own cooperative housing.
A student housing cooperative frees its member-owners from the exploitative landlord-tenant arrangement. Unlike a capitalist business, a cooperative is owned and democratically controlled by the people who live there: the members. It exists solely to meet their needs. For CCRI and many other student co-ops, ownership is held on behalf of the members by a not-for-profit corporation which persists as owner despite the constant turnover of student members.
A co-op exists to allow members to work together to provide themselves with a service, rather than so that a landlord can earn as much money as possible. Member fees are set by a democratic process that is open and transparent to the membership. The goal is not to charge as much as possible, given supply and demand. The goal is to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the co-op.
Any surplus generated doesn’t go towards enriching a landlord as profit. The surplus is under the control of the members and may be used for shared goals like expanding or renovating the co-op, or can be returned to the members in the form of a lower member fee or member rebates.
The benefits of cooperative living depend on your involvement in two different ways: labour and governance. Cooperatives depend on labour by their member-owners to function and to save money. A labour requirement of five hours per week is typical for North American cooperatives. Members will take responsibility for keeping their house clean and livable, and for other shared house activities of their choosing. Many student cooperatives purchase food together and cook meals together, an activity that both saves time and money for busy students, while at the same time building a close-knit community.
Member self-governance is an essential part of cooperative living. At CCRI, it currently takes four forms. First, there are General Meetings which are currently held twice per academic year. These are gatherings of the entire membership where major decisions are debated and voted on.
Ongoing governance is by way of an elected Board of Representatives. All members are invited to organize and participate in a system of organization-wide committees responsible for such things as recruiting new members, ensuring environmentally responsible practices, formulating new policies, and organizing social or educational events.
Each cooperative house in CCRI has its own house meetings, to elect house officers, supervise their house labour system, and allocate spending of their house budget. When something is wrong in a cooperative, you have the right and the responsibility to change it.
Like many large cooperatives, CCRI has a paid professional staff to help us in running our co-op. They are your employees and they work for you.
The Values of the Cooperative Movement: The Cooperative Principles
The early nineteenth century was a hard time for working people. Although the factories of the industrial revolution were creating vast new wealth, most of that wealth was going to their owners rather than to the workers, who worked long hours under dangerous conditions for low wages.
The cooperative movement emerged as one response by workers in nineteenth century England to the oppressions of industrial capitalism. Faced with poverty due to low wages and the poor quality of goods sold at high prices at company stores, they joined together to start their own stores for food and other goods. They would own and democratically control these stores themselves, and their purpose would be to provide them with a service rather than to earn a profit for somebody else.
These reformers drew their inspiration from the industrialist and social visionary Robert Owen, who had called for the establishment of villages of cooperation to end poverty in England. One especially well-known group was the Rochdale Cooperative Pioneers, founded in 1844. The cooperative movement has spread throughout the world.
Many student housing cooperatives were started to free their members from economic hardship, especially during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They were also an important part of the 1960’s activist counterculture that rebelled against corporate capitalism, traditional modes of authority, and the militarism represented by United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
Student housing cooperatives were at the vanguard of the social justice movements of the second half of the twentieth century, pioneering housing inclusive of racial, gender, sexual orientation, and gender diversity for students.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members uphold the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others as part of a cooperative lifestyle.
Early cooperators formulated a set of ethical principles which today form the basis for all cooperative businesses. These principles are sometimes associated with the Rochdale Pioneers, but are actually broader in origin. They were first codified by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1937, and were revised in 1966 and 1995. The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put cooperative values into practice.
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations; open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative, and supporting activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations, controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, Training & Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
The international umbrella organization for co-operatives throughout the world is the International Cooperative Alliance. CCRI is a member of the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), an umbrella organization for campus-oriented cooperatives in North America. It participates in the annual NASCO Institute, which brings together co-operatives from throughout North America. It is also a member of the Foundation for Intentional Communities. This organization promotes intentional communities of all sorts in North America, and publishes a quarterly magazine called Communities.
The cooperative movement has several symbols.
The Circle Pines
The circle pines logo was created by Dr. James Peter Warbasse in the United States. The pine tree is an ancient symbol of endurance and fecundity. More than one pine is used to signify cooperation. The circle represents the all-embracing cosmos, which depends on cooperation for its existence. It is also eternal life, and that which has no end.
Campus Cooperative Residences Circle Pines
Campus Cooperative Residences has its own variant of the circle pines as its logo.
The Rainbow Flag
A seven color rainbow flag has been a cooperative emblem since it was adopted by the International Cooperative Congress in 1921. It was adopted as the symbol of the International Cooperative alliance in 1925. Its colors have symbolic meanings:
Red stands for courage.
Orange offers the vision of possibilities.
Yellow represents the challenge green has kindled.
Green represents the challenge to strive for membership growth (apparently this is really important).
Blue suggests far horizons, the need to provide education and help the less fortunate and unity with all peoples of the world.
Dark blue represents the less fortunate who can learn to help themselves through co-operation.
Violet represents warmth, beauty and friendship.
The New Rainbow Flag
In 2001 the International Cooperative Alliance adopted a new flag, because the rainbow flag had become associated with several other social movements world-wide, and they wanted to avoid confusion. The new flag retained the symbolic rainbow colours.
The CO-OP flag
The International Cooperative Alliance again adopted a new flag in 2012, this time to commemorate the International Year of Cooperatives declared by the United Nations.