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One Housing Society Lays Strong Foundation, Builds Strength in BCs Filipino Community

Updated: Nov 3, 2022


Four years ago, a pioneering initiative in British Columbia’s Filipino community took shape, with the vision to provide housing solutions.

Thus was born the Fil Co-operative One Housing Society. The OHS is a nonprofit guided by the principle of self-help and animated by the Filipino spirit of bayanihan (cooperative endeavour).


OHS looks forward to 2021 with optimism and hope, confident that it has laid a strong foundation to build on the dream of the community to achieve affordable, sustainable, innovative, and inclusive housing.


A renewal of commitment at its 4th Annual General Assembly.

The OHS held its 4th Annual General Meeting virtually on November 28, 2020, starting at 5 p.m.


The outgoing president, Noel Magtibay, on behalf of the Board of Directors, delivered a “State of the Society”, describing the gains achieved in 2019 in the midst of the COVID-19 health crisis. He also acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on the members’ personal lives, family safety, and careers. The president’s report was followed by the presentation of the financial report on the Society’s modest financial resources.


In his report, the President, with the 2016 OHS strategic plan in mind, talked about a major measure involving meetings in the early months of the 2019 with a financial institution for the possible funding of a project study on the Society’s affordable housing initiative for its members. He and other officers were following up on the initial contacts made previously by FilCoopBC’s President Roel Gumboc and General Manager Jojo Palencia. While the talks were progressing, the financial institution informed OHS of their suspension due to the reallocation of its grants to its pandemic response. In spite of this development, the president expressed confidence in the Society’s strategy and his hope for the resumption of talks with the financial institution in the coming year.


The Society elected the members of the Board of Directors and Executive Officers for 2021: Antonino Calderon (President); Edgardo Sabile (Vice-President); Rona Bunda (Secretary); Marichu Celi (Treasurer); Wilma Toca (Assistant Treasurer) and Dominador Masakayan, Cedric Paule, Nimfa Joy Sapiera, and Marilyn Paulin (Members). The Board also appointed Jojo Palencia as OHS General Manager, in a concurrent capacity as FilCoopBC’s GM. The AGM was capped by the raffling off of a slot in the Society’s future housing project.


After the AGM’s adjournment, several members held a virtual fellowship, lasting another hour or so, for an informal conversation and to reminisce about their experiences after joining OHS and FilCoopBC and the camaraderie and friendship they have shared.



How it all began.

One Housing Society is the spin-off organization of FilCo-opBC, which was established in 2009, as a credit co-operative to offer the Filipino community in BC’s Lower Mainland a grassroots-based co-operative model for coping with the impact of the great financial crisis of 2008-2009 on their lives. FilCo-opBC marked its 10th anniversary last year celebrating a decade of service to its over 500 regular members who have been actively patronizing its robust micro-lending program (characterized by a high repayment rate).


Taking action towards affordable, sustainable, innovative, and inclusive housing solutions

In May 2016, based on the need expressed by members who were struggling with the impact of the housing crisis, FilCo-opBC launched its Housing Task Force to study and recommend to the Board a course of action through which the co-operative can respond to the members’ critical housing needs. Using its various committees’ work,the task force recommended to the Board the setting up and registration of a separate partner organization to pursue what FilCo-opBC’s president aptly calls “our new dream”.


On August 31, 2016, the business name Fil Co-operative One Housing Society was approved by BC Registry Services.


On November 2, 2016, after applying as a non-profit society with the BC Registry under the BC Society Act, the Fil Co-operative One Housing Society (OHS) was born.


Shaping a strategy, navigating a roadmap

OHS held its first strategic planning on November 20, 2016, during which it laid out a roadmap for capacity building, research on partnership building and member orientation and education. In February, 2017, OHS held its second strategic planning during which members visualized (using drawings and doodles) its future housing model. Using an envisioning tool the participants answered the questions: 1) What can we see? What can be?; 2) What do we wish? What do we want?; 3) Where do we go from here? How do we go from here to where we want to go?; and 4) How do we inform our members? How can they be engaged? From these emerged OHS members’ “envisioned home“ featuring its basic architectural design, common facilities and services, surrounding landscape, open space and community amenities. On December 2:, 2017, OHS held its 3rd strategic planning exercise to map out its stakeholders engagement, information-education and communication and governance enhancement, approaches, activities and tasks in 2018.


Focus on capacity building, strengthening governance

OHS conducted, on February 23, 2017, its first of a series of training sessions on capacity building. Resource person Jimmy Rico of BC Housing delivered the first appreciation course on asset management. The rest of the training modules were delivered after the May provincial election.

In July, 2017 the OHS Board of Directors held its first meeting principally to arrange the continuation of its capacity building training that was held in abeyance due to the May provincial election. And so, the board and officers of OHS attended and completed the capacity building training modules on procurement and contract administration, capital planning, maintenance management and energy and sustainability courtesy of BC Housing’s resource person.


In late 2018, the BOD created a team to develop the Society’s Board Development Training Program. This was implemented with the conduct, on January 20, 2019, of a Governance Training session for the Board members of One Housing Society and FilCo-opBC. From a training plan, module designs and materials and a delivery plan prepared and packaged by a small team of its own officers, the Governance Training tackled topics such as: a look at the root of the main problem with governance today; the governance problem, good governance explained, its principles and best practices.


In 2019, the incoming Board members and executive officers received the first set of the OHS Board Orientation Kit which contained a corporate profile, vision, mission and goal statements, current officers, AGM and BOD minutes, strategic plans, summary financial status and the “OHS Diaries”, a running historical account of the Society.


Building bridges with key housing stakeholders

In the spring and summer 2017, OHS sent a delegation to the semi-annual general meeting of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC (CHFBC) to plant the seed of a future collaboration.


It also started developing its corporate identity and brand and reviewed collateral studies (logo and stationery) it would eventually launch. In October 2017, OHS finalized and adopted its corporate logo and stationery and printed its banners and flyers.


The Society also elected its interim Board of Directors which then appointed the executive officers. The OHS capped the season by attending the annual CHFBC BBQ during which officers met with the key leadership of the federation who shared their outlook on the housing crisis and how to address it. While huddled under a huge tree, a key housing sector leader told a group of FilCoopBC and OHS officers, “Based on what I’ve been told about you, you are way, way ahead than many groups who want to participate in the national housing initiative. You are registered, have an elected BOD, a strategic plan, a defined and steady source of members (FilCoopBC) and a positive outlook.


In August work was started on an OHS corporate profile and marketing kit and a PowerPoint presentation which officers grabbed on their way to meetings with various housing stakeholders. As well, the Society regularly submitted articles for publication in the Philippine Asian News Today (PNT) which has been highly supportive of its efforts for many years to inform its members and its external audiences.


On November 2, 2017 One Housing Society became a member of the BC Non Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA).


In early December, OHS officers met with Luke Harrison, CEO of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency and Vancouver Councilor Hector Bremner. Board member Paulin met with Elizabeth Francois, CMHC Affordable Housing Consultant, on how to apply for seed funding, file a proposal for development funding, secure application forms, obtain other relevant grant information and get a consultant to prepare feasibility study. Board member Paulin also learned about the importance of OHS filing an application for financing with either a piece of land or a down payment.


In January 2018 OHS President Noel Magtibay and Board Members Marilyn Bajarias and Marilyn Paulin met with Peer Daniel Krause, Policy Manager of BCNPHA, who talked about the housing development process. He stressed that to kick start OHS’ housing development process, they need to come to the table with either a property or a down payment. He suggested OHS partnering with a property owner such as the government, other non-profit organizations or private owners. At the end of the meeting, he remarked: “I do not usually meet with new housing groups, but when I heard your Marilyn Paulin say that your group was representing 300 members, I agreed to meet with you.”


In February 2018, Board member Marilyn Paulin interviewed additional staff of BC Housing and Canada Home Mortgage Corporation (CHMC) about their affordable housing programs and financing options.


A solidarity built on a beneficial partnership

FilCo-opBC’s most significant partner through the years has been VanCity, its official bank and financial supporter. VanCity has played a crucial role in facilitating transactions between FilCo-opBC and its members through electronic payment of initial membership share, one-time membership fee, release and repayment of loans, and transactions with other business entities. Through the vigorous promotion of opening personal accounts with VanCity by new and regular members to facilitate the above transactions, the bank became a reliable and convenient means of encouraging and supporting FilCo-opBC members’ efforts to build their savings and diversify their financial portfolios.


VanCity has also generously given FilCoopBC two grants (one as “seed money” to boost its micro lending funds, the other for a series of financial literacy education workshops for members, both during its early years). As one officer of the co-operative has said: “I can only describe this unsolicited financial support as a ‘least expected, but most definitely welcome’ expression of support from a solid and highly respected bank for the work we are doing in FilCo-opBC for the benefit of its members.”


Last, but not the least, VanCity also opened its doors for the rent-free use of their community rooms for FilCo-opBC’s regular and special board and committee meetings and periodic strategic planning exercises. Its Victoria branch has become the “unofficial home” of FilCo-opBC’s regular pre-membership education seminars as well as One Housing Society’s member orientation sessions and board meetings.


Members of One Housing Society, who came from the membership of FilCo-opBC, look forward to this solidarity as they forge ahead with the fulfillment of their dream of affordable, secure, safe and sustainable housing in partnership with its official bank.


In trickles, they joined to be part of the solution to the housing crisis

Central to its purpose and the centre of all its work, the pioneers of One Housing Society employed a simple tactic to promote it to potential members. Riding on the regular pre-membership education seminars of FilCoopBC, OHS delivered its One Housing Orientation (OHO) seminars as a back-to-back activity. The OHO served as the venue for learning what the Society is about, what it has done and will do and how they could become a part of it.


The OHO seminars were preceded by invitations sent by email and text and through postings on its Facebook page and several chat boards. The Society complemented its awareness-raising efforts by publishing articles in the Philippine Asian News Today (PNT).


And so the regular and new members of FilCo-opBC started to join, first in trickles and then in droves, the OHS, their ally and partner organization in pursuing their dream of affordable homeownership or access to affordable housing options.


OHS set a very simple set of qualifications to become a member: 1) be a member of FilCo-opBC; 2) attend an orientation seminar; and 3) pay a one-time membership fee.


OHS delivered its first One Housing Orientation in June 2018, followed by about 10 more in the next two years. In September, 2018, OHS also conducted a Workshop on Affordable Housing Crisis: A Filipino Immigrant Society’s Response, in collaboration with SUCCESS (Richmond), a major settlement service agency. The Society capped the year with the holding of its 2nd Annual General Meeting and BOD Election on December 16, 2018.


A total of 103 regular members of FilCoopBC have joined the OHS. In 2020 alone, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 30 members were added to its roster. In spite of the health crisis, the back-to-back virtual delivery mentioned above continued to flourish, to prosper, during a dire climate of fear, uncertainty and insecurity. These gatherings to learn, to connect and be in solidarity, in a way provided relief - and hope - to some otherwise weary members of these two partner organizations.


Members kept informed, enhancing participation

To strengthen the members’ engagement, the Society developed and delivered information, education and communication services in the form of the Affordable Housing Options Information Sessions on cooperative and non-profit housing, BC Housing rental assistance for families and seniors, and first time home-buyers first delivered by Joy Sapiera and corporate secretary Rona Bunda in November 2018. In January, 2019, the maiden issue of Balitang Abot-Kayang Pabahay, its internal newsletter was released. Finally, OHS has put up a modest website, Facebook page and chat boards.


A training ground as responsible homeowners or tenants

OHS members have to be FilCo-opBC members first in order to become a part of, and participate in, its affordable housing program. This basic requirement is based on the fact that the affordable housing initiative was in response to the identified and expressed needs of FilCo-opBC members.


The other importance of the above requirement is that membership and active participation in FilCo-opBC is a great educational experience in cooperativism and responsible homeownership.


Filco-opBC, for the future OHS members, is a great “training ground” for managing their finances, being responsible savers as well as borrowers (as indicated by its high loan repayment rate), and working together following cooperative principles and practices.


The three pillars of building affordable housing

Out of all the above have emerged what has become the guiding framework for action of One Housing Society from its birth in 2016 to its 4th anniversary this year. The Society will anchor its work on what it is referred to as the three pillars of OHS: 1) building partnerships, 2) building capacity and governance and 3) building member engagement to forge ahead in the coming months and years.


Our new dream across time, beyond our lifetimes and down to generations yet unborn

These three pillars are guided by a comprehensive, forward-looking and dynamic set of beliefs and core values. Below are One Housing Society’s:


Vision Statement: A leading Canadian Filipino provider of affordable, sustainable, innovative, and inclusive housing solutions.


Mission Statement: To build, operate and manage affordable housing for Canadian Filipinos in partnership with stakeholders.


Goals: 1) To provide affordable housing market opportunities for its members as well as for eligible low income residents of BC and 2) To develop, own, operate and enter into agreements as a non-profit housing operator of a BC Housing facility or a municipal housing as well as other cooperative housing providers.

Slogan: Building partnerships to build affordable housing


OHS is ready to talk business

The Filco-cooperative One Housing Society (OHS) and its ally, One Filipino Co-operative of BC (FilCo-opBC) join the rest of the country and the world in fighting COVID-19 and in welcoming the anti-COVID-19 vaccine. In their modest way, they are also renewing and reinforcing their commitment to the goal of affordable homeownership and access to other affordable housing options for all. It hopes to be part of the solution to the housing crisis in partnership with the federal, provincial and municipal governments and public corporations, the co-operative and non-profit housing sector, the financial and banking institutions and the housing industry, in general.


One Housing Society looks forward in 2021 to “talking business” with its future partners in solidarity with the multi sectoral efforts to solve the housing crisis.




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