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Investment service tailored to co-ops suits Seawalk Housing Co-operative
Just a block from Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour, this 40-unit community has been offering affordable housing since 1989 to people from a wide range of ages, incomes and backgrounds. But one thing they all seem to have in common is a collective green thumb and in addition to the multiple patio and container plots, it sports a beautiful and carefully tended (and completely organic) community garden.
The community tends its investment strategy just as carefully. And recently, they decided to plant their investment capital in Encasa’s Social Housing Investment Program (the Program). It was a pretty easy decision to make, given how quickly Seawalk’s relationship with Encasa blossomed.
“Whenever we had a question about something, they’ve been there,” said Nick Osmond-Jones, a member of the Seawalk Co-op Board of Directors and Policy Secretary to the board. “They’re super-helpful.”
Osmond-Jones worked with the Encasa staff to learn about the Program and with PH&N Investment Services to find the right investment instruments for the housing co-op. Seawalk has invested in the Social Housing Canadian Short-Term Bond Fund. The thing that sold Osmond-Jones and his fellow board members was the return on investment.
“ Whenever we had a question about something, they’ve been there,” said Nick Osmond-Jones, a member of the Seawalk Co-op Board of Directors and Policy Secretary to the board. “They’re super-helpful.”
But he says another big benefit of being in the Program is Encasa’s thorough knowledge of housing co-ops and the financial rules they operate under.
“They’re tailored to co-ops,” said Osmond-Jones, 37. “We could buy a mutual fund somewhere else, but they probably wouldn’t understand our business the same way. I was able to give them a financial report and they said to us, ‘Okay, this is the money that you are allowed to invest.’ Another agency wouldn’t be able to do that for us.”
As every gardener knows, you have to plan for changing seasons. Using PH&N Investment Services to help them adapt to changing needs over time is another plus for Seawalk. Osmond-Jones says at the moment, all the housing co-op can invest is its membership shares. But that will change once the co-op finishes paying off its two mortgages.
“When we pay off our mortgages, we might be able to invest more,” he said.
Add to that the comfort of knowing that their money is being invested in funds that are subject to an ethical screening process (which avoids companies involved with alcohol, tobacco and military weaponry) and Seawalk has a bumper crop of reasons to invest in the Program.
And don’t let the green thumbs and garden gloves fool you – the folks at Seawalk are just as adept at working a calculator as a pair of clippers.
“We run things like a business,” said Osmond-Jones, who works for the B.C. Government in the Ministry of Health. “So it’s good to feel that your interests are being looked after.”
Killarney Gardens Housing Co-op loves their investment life guard
The first thing you notice about Killarney Gardens Housing Co-op is the pool.
It’s the community’s central social hub. Sure, you’ll see kids zooming around on their bikes and the playground is always full in this 227-unit co-op – the largest in B.C. But the moment it’s swimming season, the action moves pool side.
“We had our annual summer barbeque as usual this year and we hired a life guard to be on duty by the pool,” said Sandie Brown, President of Killarney Gardens Housing Co-op. “The kids were playing pool games and diving and having a great time.”
The pool is a product of the co-op’s past-life as an apartment-townhouse complex in East Vancouver. It didn’t become a co-op until 1989. And while it’s a great asset, the pool also presents certain risks. That’s why the co-op’s Board of Directors made sure there was a life guard on duty. Their philosophy is to hire experts to help them minimize risks so the folks can relax and enjoy themselves.
And that’s one of the big reasons why they decided to sign up for Encasa’s Social Housing Investment Program.
“If you’re going to jump into the deep end of the investment pool, it only makes sense to have a life guard on duty,” said Brown. “That’s how we think of Encasa and PH&N Investment Services – our investment life guards.”
Killarney Gardens was excited about the Program from the moment it launched. They met with Encasa staff in the summer of 2015 and invested their member shares in a bond fund, with a time horizon of roughly seven years. The decision was made easier by their connection with the co-operative housing sector.
“We felt if the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC was involved, it was part of our sector and that gave us confidence,” said Brown.
“We’re also investing in ourselves — that’s what’s important. The money is staying in the sector and growing the sector.”
Brown said her members were also attracted by the Program’s ethical vetting.
“We’re also investing in ourselves – that’s what’s important. The money is staying in the sector and growing the sector.” Sandie Brown, President, Killarney Gardens Housing Co-op
With a little help from PH&N Investment Services, Killarney Gardens is looking ahead to when their mortgage is paid off and they may be able to invest more. In the meantime, they know where the dividends from their current investment will go: the repair fund.
“The buildings were built in 1969, so they need a lot of care,” said Brown, who’s lived in Killarney Gardens for 21 years.
More than anything else, Brown said her co-op community wanted someone they could trust with their collective cash.
“It’s one less thing,” said Brown. “As a board, we are not qualified to understand the markets. With information from Encasa, and investment advice from PH&N Investment Services, the board is able to make an informed decision on what stocks and bonds to invest in.”
Which leaves more time to hang out at the pool and enjoy life in this friendly co-op community.
“It’s a small town in a big city,” said Brown. “You know everybody and everybody’s business.”
And how to take care of business as well.
Returns for the period ending December 31, 2016
The Economic Outlook and Fund Commentary offers timely and relevant commentary on your investments in the Social Housing Investment Program. This report provides an up-to-date global economic outlook and quarterly commentary on the performance of each of the Social Housing Investment Funds.
In January, 2016, we reported that Encasa Financial Inc. became a member of the Responsible Investment Association (RIA).
Why is this important?
RIA members believe that the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into the selection and management of investments can provide superior risk adjusted returns and positive societal impact.
How does the RIA do this?
The Responsible Investment Association’s purpose is to:
“Encasa has practiced and supported responsible investment for years, and we enthusiastically welcome them as an RIA Associate Member,” said Deb Abbey, CEO of the Responsible Investment Association (RIA). “By joining the RIA, Encasa has further demonstrated their commitment to responsible investment. We look forward to strengthening our relationship and partnering with Encasa as we continue to grow responsible investing in Canada.”
Encasa already screens investments through a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) approach. Does Encasa use ESG too? What’s the difference?
In December, 2015, the Encasa Board of Directors adopted a ‘Responsible Investment’ policy which includes both SRI and ESG approaches to responsible investment. Investments in businesses or public entities whose activities have a negative social or environmental impact (eg tobacco, weapons, human rights violations, etc) will continue to be screened out of Encasa’s Funds using SRI tools. Simultaneously, investments in organizations and institutions whose policies, practices, and products are able to support the fulfillment of financial objectives , while reflecting positive outcomes in regards to environmental, social and governance (ESG) related considerations will be sought out. Encasa recognizes that sound management of ESG risks and opportunities reflects well on the quality of management of the investment and is likely to lead to enhanced investment performance over the longer term.
“Encasa Financial Inc., at its inception, made a commitment to responsible investment. This aligns with the interests of our unitholders in building healthy and sustainable communities, and reflects our belief that responsible investment generates the best long term results. Encasa actively practices and promotes the adoption of progressive responsible investment approaches, including impact investing, and looks forward to the sharing of practices and learning from RIA and its members who share these beliefs.” Derek Ballantyne, CEO, Encasa Financial Inc.
For more information about the Responsible Investment Association, visit their website at: https://riacanada.ca/about/#sthash.nQTpTJbN.dpuf