Constructing Home and Community in Halifax Housing Cooperatives

Shannon Turner, Elyssa Canning


The subject of housing is a complex and multifaceted one in contemporary Canadian society, and urban areas in particular. Cooperative housing addresses a multitude of housing-related issues and provides an alternative model of affordable and sustainable housing solutions for a diverse cross-section of citizens. Housing cooperatives (co-ops) are a specific response to a variety of urban housing issues, from planning and sustainability, to housing scarcity and affordability. They also address fundamental social issues, from social isolation and marginalization to community building and creation of identity. This paper uses an ethnographic approach to explore how the structure of housing cooperatives and their ideals of cooperation and community translate meaningfully into a sense of place and identity for their members. It looks at how the social production of space relates to the social construction of space within cooperatives, how cooperatives address issues of affordable housing, and how coops deal with social distance and community building within urban environments. The findings of this research demonstrate the dynamic ways in which housing cooperatives meet the social and economic needs of diverse individuals within an urban social and economic landscape, establishing sense of home and community for their members, and offering an affordable and sustainable model of housing.

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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Martha Radice.

ISSN 2369-8721