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Campus Co-op Turns 75

Student Housing Co-op Celebrates 75 Years of Cooperative Living

by Geordie Gwalgen Dent

PHOTO Campus Co-op
PHOTO Campus Co-op
Co-op Housing in Toronto
Co-op Housing in Toronto

Tucked away in the Toronto's Annex district lie close to 30 houses which make up the oldest and one of the most interesting housing cooperatives in Toronto.   
Started in 1936, the Campus Cooperative Residence was started by students in Toronto looking for housing.  After Arthur Dayfoot, Alex Sim, Don McLean, and Archie Mason were influenced by 1930's co-op activist Toyohiko Kagawa, they decided to start a cooperative with their own money renting a house from the University of Toronto on St. George St.

20 years later, the co-op had bought and paid for 5 houses and had over 100 members.

Trisha Hurst, the previous Membership Coordinator of the Cooperative  (formally the Campus Co-operative Residence Inc.) says that throughout the years they began to acquire different houses throughout the Annex area and have been operating them since then.   

After an initial round of tenants cooperatively buying houses to rent in the 1940’s, the 1970’s provided a windfall of money from the government for cooperative buying.   

Now, the Co-op owns and operates 28 row houses or detached Victorian mansions which have all been converted into shared housing for their tenant members.
Like many cooperatives, the Campus Co-op is run by a board of directors and the tenants themselves.  Some board members have been long standing while others are students who have only been involved in the Co-op only recently.  The Co-op also has 6 staff and interns, though it has been through a heavy amount of turnover this year.
While the longevity of the Co-op speaks to its success, it still struggles to engage with its members, many of whom have language issues, heavy workloads and a transient nature, being students.  The age and size of its buildings and lack of members during the summer make maintenance and funding difficult to navigate.
However according to Hurst success can be found everywhere in the Co-op.  “It is the bonding that really inspires them to grow as people,” she said.  The spread-out nature of the co-op means it is not traditional in being in one big building.   
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the co-op.  Bernadette Kasan, the Co-op's Facilities Manager says that the co-op is planning to mark the occasion.  "We're going to do something, we are the oldest student co-op in Canada," she said.   Other campuses in Ontario have similar co-op's such as the University of Waterloo.

Sadly, the 75 year celebration will be without any of the original founders.  The last of the original four died in January 2011.

Learn more about the Campus Cooperative at
An original version of this article previously appeared in The Tenant!

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Topics: Cooperatives

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