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'This — is — nuts': Why hundreds lined up to see a 2-bedroom, $1,200 co-op suite

'This — is — nuts': Why hundreds lined up to see a 2-bedroom, $1,200 co-op suite

Members of a Vancouver housing co-op say it was an error that led hundreds of people to line up to view a two-bedroom suite.

"I think we just didn't cut off the invitations soon enough, so basically everyone who had an application in came to the viewing," said Erin Gilchrist, president of the Heritage Housing Co-op on W. 8th Avenue at Heather Street.

"We usually cut off the list at about 50 or 60 total depending on what size of the unit that we're showing."

But co-op representatives also suggested that the extreme interest is an indication of the need for more affordable rental housing.

"There's a terrible housing crunch out there," Gilchrist added.

About 200 people attended an orientation meeting — similar to an open house — on Wednesday night to view the co-op's unit.

Co-ops are non-profit housing ventures where members pay a share and are considered equal owners.

They share in maintenance costs and responsibilities which, combined, help to keep housing costs down.

The charges for Heritage Housing's 900 square-foot unit are $1,220 per month, but could rise depending on a family's income.

Many online were shocked by images of the long lines of people trying to view it.

If applicants had not attended the orientation, they would have missed their shot at signing up for an interview, which is required to get into the co-op.

Regardless, Gilchrist pointed to the need for more affordable housing options in the city.

She said her co-op has a long wait list, and in her 15 years as a member, a suite has never sat empty.

3-year-wait lists

Thom Armstrong, the executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., says many co-ops in the city have become so popular, they've had to eliminate their wait lists altogether. 

"Co-ops are telling us that their waiting lists are sometimes one, two — sometimes three years long," Armstrong said.

"At that point, most of them they just close the list because it's just not fair to keep people on a list for that long."

At showings he's attended, he said groups have typically been limited to about 40 people each.