Making Co-opville

Making Co-opville: Layers of Activism in Point Saint Charles (1983-1992)

Simon Vickers

Mcgill University Archives, MUA 2008-0024.01.05.22

To date, most writing on co-operative housing has begun from the assumption that co-operatives are objectively good. These celebratory narratives have emphasized the affordability and sense of community that they associate with co-op housing. What is missing from these narratives, however, is the acknowledgement that through their process of selecting neighbours housing co-ops are, by necessity, exclusive.

This thesis takes a more critical approach to co-operative housing by stepping outside of individual co-ops, and looking at the way they were perceived through the frame of a neighbourhood. In 1983, local activists in the Montreal neighbourhood of Point St-Charles launched PROJET St-Charles. Promoted as an alternative to the revitalization strategies of a city government that actively promoted gentrification, PROJET supporters sought to build 500 hundred non-market co-ops over the next three years.

Over the next decade, debates over how to fund, build and fill these co-ops revealed much about the multiple undercurrents of culture and activism in Point St- Charles. Although these “layers” of social relations could normally co-exist, the process of choosing members for co-operative housing required that the Comité become selective. Through their governance of a plan to build and fill co-ops for and by the neighbourhood, the Comité St-Charles literally chose who would represent Point St- Charles in the coming years.