Rebuild of Coquitlam co-op on Johnston Street eyed

Hugh Tait and Peter Sciortino, executive members of the Hoy Creek Co-operative Society, say they would like to see more suites for handicapped people in new buildings proposed for Johnson Street between Glen Drive and Guildford Way.  - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Hugh Tait and Peter Sciortino, executive members of the Hoy Creek Co-operative Society, say they would like to see more suites for handicapped people in new buildings proposed for Johnson Street between Glen Drive and Guildford Way.

After years of struggling with leaky roofs and bad plumbing, the residents of the Hoy Creek Co-op are looking forward to an extreme make-over.

A building committee has been formed and consultants have been hired to work with the City of Coquitlam on a plan to sell two corner properties and use the proceeds to rebuild the aging co-op for about 160 seniors and families.

"What we're going to end up with is a brand new. safe, warm and comfortable place for people to live," said Hugh Tait, the president of the co-op society.
Although the plan is in the early stages, the goal is to rezone two pieces of property to permit two towers, one at the corner of Glen Drive and Johnson Street, and the other at Glen and Guildford Way, and use proceeds from the sale to build badly-need social housing.

"We would love to be able to keep both corners," Tait said, noting that one of them borders on Hoy Creek. But he said there is no other way for the society to generate enough funds to rebuild the co-op, which has become increasingly dilapidated over the years.

Coquitlam's manager of development services has confirmed the co-op is working with a consultant on a land plan for the property, which is designated for high density apartments under the city centre plan.

"The OCP (Official Community Plan) is OK, but it would require a rezoning and there's a creek through that site so there are fisheries requirements," Raul Allueva said.


Working with the support of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the building committee has big plans for improving the housing situation for their co-op members, who pay between $1,500 to $2,500 to join the co-op.

Tait, who is on disability for a back injury, and Peter Sciortino, the vice-president of the co-op, who suffers from short-term memory loss and is also receiving a disability pension, say they would like to see more suites for handicapped people in the rebuilt co-operative.

"Our dream is that the bottom floor suites will be all wheel-chair accessible," Sciortino said.
Many of the co-op's inhabitants are elderly or disabled so adding more wheel-chair accessible suites just makes sense but the two also want to attract more families and seniors to the co-op, including disabled adults with children .

It's been a tough few years for the co-op that has struggled with leaky roofs and faulty plumbing for several years. Although the co-op has just about paid off its mortgage with CMHC, there has never been enough money to keep up with repairs.

Most of the suites are subsidized and people who live in them are on low or fixed incomes.
Several of of the suites have had to be boarded up, on the orders of the Coquitlam Fire Department, because water damage made them inhabitable and they posed a safety risk. Other are less damaged but the cost of repairing them to make them marketable is high. Approximately 10% of the townhouses have plywood on windows and doors.

"We are slowly working on them to get them to market," Tait said, but he admitted it's difficult to attract new co-op members when the buildings look like they are in disrepair.


Despite the dirty stucco and boarded up windows, the co-op appears to be a viable community and when The News visited, several members stopped to chat with Tait and Sciortino, and the flower-beds, made soggy by winter rains, looked well-tended.

Tait and Sciortino do some of the maintenance themselves, such as fixing a stuck garage door, but the co-op employs a management company to take care of things.

As well, CMHC has been a strong supporter and last spring it provided $750,000 to replace a roof on the Creekview apartment building. Another roofing project was just completed on the seniors' Maple Terrace building.

Tait and Sciortino agree the roof-replacements were a costly investment when the apartments and townhouses will eventually be demolished to make way for new four and five storey buildings. But they say the repairs were needed to keep the buildings liveable. It could be years before the project is complete, "And what if it isn't rebuilt," Tait asked, noting that there's a two-year wait for social housing anywhere else in the region.

For it is a risk for the co-operative to take on such a large project, and Tait admits the responsibility does keep him up at night. The problem of what to do with co-op members who will be displaced during construction, still has to be addressed.

But Tait and Sciortino note that they are laying the groundwork for other co-operatives in the country whose buildings have reached the end of their useful life.

"Instead of an ending, this is the beginning of something that co-ops can look forward to," Tait said.

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