History of Brighton Yards

In the Spring of 1984, a group of individuals who believed in the concept of co-operative housing began meeting to discuss the possibility of developing a housing co-operative in the City of Waterloo. Their vision, and that of the Canadian Co-operative movement, was of a society where people and organizations practice co-operation without exploiting people or degrading nature, where there is dignity and opportunity for provision for all, where economic and social power are rooted in communities and local organizations, and where recognition of human interdependence encourages broad linkages with others and responsive systems of organizations. Housing co-ops were seen as an effective way to pursue this vision. In 1984, Beaver Creek Housing Co-op on Bearinger Road was the only housing co-op in existence in the city of Waterloo.

In May 1985, Brighton Yards Housing Co-operative Inc. was incorporated as a not-for-profit housing co-op. The founding Board of the new corporation was comprised of Barbara Saunders, Kate Merrifield, Douglas Gaudette, Bill Streit, Wendy Newberry, Marcia Cote, and Dianne Warriner. Barbara, Kate, Douglas, and Bill went on to become resident members of the completed co-op.

The founding Board spent many months developing a management, organizational and marketing plan for the fledgling co-op. They were assisted in their efforts by the staff of Waterloo-Wellington Non-Profit Homes, a community based co-op housing resource group. In addition to working on the
organizational framework for the co-op, the founding Board investigated a large number of potential building sites. The group’s focus quickly turned to the present site. Not only was it seen as being ideally located close to public transit and essential services but it was favoured because of its potential to boost enrollment at Brighton Public School. The school, considered by many to be among the finest in the region, was being threatened with closure due to dwindling enrollment. At the time, the site was owned by the City of Waterloo and was the location of its Municipal Works yard.

Following extensive negotiations with the City and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, an agreement was reached to purchase the land from the City of Waterloo. A project architect (Snider, Reichard and March) and a general contractor (Freuere Homes) were subsequently hired. Construction of the co-op began in late 1985. A Sod Turning ceremony was held in May 1986, and the first members took possession of their units in August of that year. By December 1986, all 45 units of the co-op were filled. The first general meeting of resident members occurred in January 1987, and the official opening of Brighton Yards Housing Co-op was held in September of 1987.

In the years following its opening, members of the Brighton Yards community have continued to work together to build a safe, well-managed and democratic community that reflects and builds upon the founding Board’s original vision. Brighton Yards also has continued to maintain its membership in and active involvement with the broader co-operative movement. The co-op is a member of both the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and the Central Ontario Co-operative Housing Federation. Through membership in these organizations, the co-op networks with and provides support to other co-op communities throughout the country and abroad.

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