Housing co-ops are often what people think of when they hear the term "co-op", though they are neither the only type of co-op nor the oldest.
Living in a housing co-op is in some ways similar to renting a home; you typically pay a monthly housing charge that is much like paying rent, and you purchase a share in the co-op that is treated much like a security deposit in a rental situation.
In actual fact, when you become a member of a housing co-op you collectively own the company (co-op) that either owns the property you live on or owns the rights to occupy it. You aren't really renting a home in a housing co-op, rather you're paying a fee to your co-op to use the service (housing) that it provides.
This means the laws and regulations that govern rental arrangements do not apply. Instead, the rules and regulations of the co-op you join do.
As members, you and your neighbours determine the policies of the co-op, including how much is charged for housing and the manner in which it is assessed. As with all primary co-ops, each member has one vote, regardless of how much they pay.
More information on housing co-ops in BC, as well as a directory of housing co-ops that are accepting applications, can be found at the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC.
A subset of housing co-ops, belonging to an equity co-op is similar to owning a condominium or townhouse managed by a strata corporation.
As with a housing co-op, you and your neighbours collectively own the company (co-op) that owns the property. However, your share purchase in an equity co-op will often cost just under the market price to buy an equivalent home. Shares in an equity co-op also typically appreciate in value, much like real estate.
Monthly fees, should they exist, would be analogous to building maintenance fees in a strata arrangement.
Like a strata-run condominium or townhouse complex, members of equity co-ops determine the policies of their co-op. One way in which it differs from strata is that new members must be approved by the co-op's Board of Directors.
Equity co-ops are relatively uncommon in British Columbia, but they do exist.