A Delta seniors housing co-op is under pressure to back away from a proposed rule that would ban members from living together if they are not in a marriage-like union.
The Crescent Downs Housing Co-operative in Delta provides housing for people aged 55 and over and wants a new rule registered and implemented that would prohibit two people living together in one suite if they are friends or non-spousal family members.
The proposed rule has been criticized by the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. and has caught the eye of Kathleen Ruff, B.C.’s first director of the Human Rights Branch, who is taking the case to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie is also opposed.
“It is insulting and disrespectful to tell a senior that they must be in a spousal relationship or else be sentenced to live in solitude,” Ruff told Postmedia.
The proposed new rule is expected to be voted upon in the fall and states that only a person at least 55, or two people at least 55 and living in a marriage-like relationship, can apply for admission to the co-op — in the latter case as joint members.
Ruff said that if someone was widowed, then that person was left with the option of instantly finding a new spouse, living alone, or leaving the co-op.
“The new rule would strip seniors of the right to choose to be joint members with and live with a family member, who is also a senior, in seniors co-operative housing,” she said.
“This would create a terrible precedent that would endanger and demean the lives of all seniors in B.C. Seniors should not be prohibited from living with a family member. It is insulting and disrespectful to tell a senior that they must be in a spousal relationship or else will be sentenced to live in solitude.”
According to an email sent to Ruff from Thom Armstrong, CEO of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., the proposed rule is “very unusual.”
“The CHTBC would certainly never recommend or endorse anything like it,” Armstrong wrote.
A letter from the CSCOBC supporting Ruff’s human rights claim states “we believe that seniors should not be prohibited from living with a family member at this or any housing co-op. We consider this a serious human rights issue that affects the rights, security and dignity of all seniors.”
An email sent to Ruff from Mackenzie states that the seniors advocate is opposed to “any rule or policy that would take away the
right of a senior to live with a family member, who is also a senior, in co-op housing for seniors.”
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has acknowledged receipt of Ruff’s complaint but has not approved it as of yet.
Crescent Downs Housing Co-op president Carol Cunningham did not respond to an email. The co-op’s phone does not take messages. Lawyer Karen Orr who has represented the co-op before was not available for comment.