In Conversation with the Centre’s President
Written by Jennifer Hille
Tim is a nationally recognized non-profit, community, and co-operative housing policy advocate, with years of leadership experience in housing and homelessness. He is the founding President of the Centre and Executive Director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada. CHF Canada is a national membership association of housing co-ops, representing over one thousand members, and home to over a quarter of a million people.
Prior to moving to Ottawa, Tim served as the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Non-Profit Housing Association, and previously led the Community Action Group on Homelessness in Fredericton. In his personal time, he enjoys cross-country skiing at Parc Gatineau and has become an active runner during the pandemic.
Creating Partnerships in the Community Housing Sector
I discovered community housing, through mentorship and a right set of circumstances, as a university student. With a grant as a Millennium Excellence Scholarship laureate, I wanted to explore my interest in homelessness and housing insecurity initiatives. I knocked at the New Brunswick Non-Profit Housing Association’s doors and they hired me as a contractual employee. This is how I discovered the spectrum of community housing. I particularly want to thank Gary Glauser for his support, he was the ED of the New Brunswick Non-Profit Organization when I first became involved in the sector.
I was very curious about housing insecurity. When I discovered how effective community housing was in supporting socio-economic participation and empowerment, I decided to put down roots and persevere in this sector. After having worked for the NBNPHA, my first full-time job was as a coordinator for the Community Action Group on homelessness in Fredericton. That was when the National At Home/Chez Soi Mental Health Commission Canada had started a pilot project on housing first.
The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association deserves a lot of credit for my continued interest in the sector. An invitation to a CHRA conference as part of the emerging leader-professional program served as a major catalyst in my career. Meeting people from across the country, working on similar issues within unique different geographic and regional circumstances really cemented my interest in community housing. I came to the sector as a generalist and I decided to focus on creating effective dialogue and partnership to tackle problems collectively.
Co-op Housing During and After COVID-19
This is a very difficult time for many people living in housing co-ops, as we are over 100 days into a pandemic. Some voices claim that we are all in the same boat. But I think it is more accurate to point out just how different these boats really are. A leaking canoe does not have the same steering experience than an elegant motorboat. The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes apparent for members of our society who have been excluded and marginalized, discriminated against within our economic, political, and social systems. We know that the pandemic has had disparate impacts when looking at the consequences of COVID-19 from a race or gender-based lens.
But a general trend within our co-op housing communities shows how informal networks of support have been created, and how concern for the neighbours and community exists. Co-operatives are value-based enterprises, designed to build strong and healthy communities. The co-operative’s core values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity have always carried great importance. In the face of a pandemic, our values and principles become even more pivotal to create a more inclusive society. When co-ops act according to their values and principles, we can create a better world.
This is not to deny the damage or challenges that co-op members have been facing since the beginning of the pandemic. But co-ops are demonstrating a level of resilience and adaptivity that I hope will inspire others. Because we all know how intertwined housing and health are —now would be an ideal moment to develop more co-operative and community housing in Canada.
An Affordable Home to Guarantee Collective Prosperity
As our society moves from pandemic response to pandemic recovery, we need to recognize how a safe and affordable home is vital to our society’s health and prosperity. My hope for the 12 to 24 coming months is that housing — and more specifically community housing —will play a key role to ensure economic, social, and health recovery from COVID-19. Nobody disputes how essential clean air is for human life, so I am hopeful that Canadians will come to recognize how essential the right to housing is for our individual and collective well-being. And I hope for a wide recognition of housing as a key element in promoting a more just, equitable, and safe society.
As a sector and as a movement, we need to define and create transformation. If we support the ongoing resilience of community and co-operative housing in Canada, that will ensure to create a stronger, more inclusive community housing sector. We need to play a part in eliminating racism in our own communities, and we need to walk the path of reconciliation. I very much believe in the call-for-action from the truth and reconciliation commission asking to start reconciliation through education. We need to initiate dialogue and be effective listeners so that we can create sustainable change. All members of a society are responsible for reconciliation and every process should start within our own communities, including the community housing sector.
Endurance as a Leader and New Runner
Endurance has been an important quality helping me to persevere in my professional life. When I have a goal in mind, I tend to work slowly and consistently until it has been achieved! I have also had the chance of being surrounded by exceptional individuals, in my team or as mentors. There are too many great people in the community housing sector to name. But the support of those people who believe in you, encourage you and challenge you certainly brings purpose to our work.
Personal activities that help me persevere include cross-country skiing at Parc Gatineau. I really love skiing in the winter, and I focus on other projects in the summer, such as joining the Cabot Trail Relay Race as a team, if the circumstances permit. As much as I did not identify as a runner before the pandemic, it has considerably helped me to maintain a work-life balance.
Many people already know that I am a Trekkie. And my team will confirm that even though I do not have children, I enjoy making the occasional “dad joke”, often causing collective eye rolls.
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