Spice Management Group has developed a housing co-op management business with a social enterprise focus — reducing management stress and lowering costs, while delivering affordable housing to residents.
The organization currently serves 15 co-ops and about 750 residents from its offices in Delta, B.C. Chief executive officer John Waldo says Spice employs 19 team members with a diversity of skills and interests, and that is about as large as the company plans to grow.
“All of the crew members are really passionate about providing housing that is affordable in the Lower Mainland market,” he said. “It’s a really diverse group with different interests and talents,” large enough to accommodate the various challenges that housing co-ops must experience, but small enough that that individuals can work as a team, communicating effectively.
While other property management firms provide basic management to serve the co-op community, Spice takes pride in reflecting non-profit housing values with a customized model.
Waldo says Spice frees volunteer co-op board members from service, maintenance and rent collection tasks, allowing the board and committees to focus on community building and planning.
With its market knowledge, the company finds the best value for services such as garbage collection, insurance, elevator service and construction repairs.
Spice maintains an effective system to collect rents, helping reducing bad debt costs. As well, “we apply for grants and low interest financing” where appropriate, he said.
The effective result is that Spice’s co-op clients save money and the boards are free to look to the future – and this is where Waldo sees the company growing along with the needs of the co-ops
“We’re in the process of refurbishing about half of our clients’ properties – inside and out, roofs, windows, siding, bathrooms, piping, kitchens and more.”
More significantly, Spice is working with its clients to better use land in redeveloping properties “especially for seniors and people with disabilities, or in leveraging additional space to build more housing,” he said.
This redevelopment work won’t come at the expense of current members (residents) in Vancouver’s overheated market. Spice is keeping housing charge (rent) increases to reasonable levels The additional capacity will allow co-op clients “to provide housing to others currently paying way more than they can afford to pay.”
Overall, Spice Management has created the ideal environment for a business that values its employees and community. “We didn’t want to be a non-profit ourselves,” Waldo said. “But we didn’t want to be a hard, impersonal and insensitive corporation either.”
And indeed the company’s co-op clients appreciate Spice’s combination of pragmatism and humanity.
For more information see www.spicemanagementgroup.com.