New Incubator venture a local leader in housing equity

Monday, January 25, 2021
by Centre for Peace Advancement

Union Sustainable Development Cooperative logo

Affordable housing is becoming harder and harder to find. Union Sustainable Development Co-operative, the newest member of the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement’s Epp Peace Incubator program, is addressing this problem by helping Waterloo Region build the city—or rather, the home—they truly want, together.

Union Co-operative’s founder, Sean Campbell is a PhD student in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment and has a background in business. In his undergraduate years, Campbell’s work with Sustainable Waterloo Region led him into the world of non-profit consulting. This work opened his eyes to the ways community organizations have trouble raising investment capital on the scale needed to tackle the size of the problems they face, as well as competing with the for-profit sector.

The first of its kind in Ontario, Union Co-operative is a new member-owned co-operative that seeks to raise investment capital from the community to purchase and maintain affordable housing units. Union Co-operative’s mission is to democratize city-building, resulting in the improvement of economic, social, and environmental health in Waterloo Region. The Centre for Peace Advancement’s collaborative, multisector approach resonated with Campbell, which led him to join the Centre’s unique working community.

The philosophy behind Union is to ensure that Waterloo Region's incredible growth and progress helps everyone, and that the effects of development result in long-term local benefits. By buying and managing properties, Union Co-operative is creating sustainable partnerships and solutions that are working to stop the rising cost of rent.

The organization currently has a membership of 57 individuals and has not yet started actively recruiting members. “It’s heartening to see such great community interest in permanent affordability through co-operative ownership,” says Campbell. Membership is open to individuals who live, work, or have a connection with Waterloo Region.

Union Co-operative is part of a growing movement of community organizations that seek to provide investors with both modest financial returns and social returns, such as affordability of rents.

Campbell says, “One of our directors often quotes: ‘We all allow our money to do things we’d never do ourselves.’ In 2016, the last full census year, our community contributed $650 million to RRSPs alone. We can make Waterloo Region a better place to live if we redirect a small percentage of our existing wealth away from the stock market and towards projects that help our neighbours.”

Union was drawn the Centre for Peace Advancement because of its Mitacs-approved Incubator program, which provides graduate and post-doctorate students with funding to bring their research to life. As Union launches, it sees value in being part of a vibrant learning community and receiving the opportunities for mentorship and funding that the Centre offers.


If you are interested in joining the unique community of peace and justice-minded individuals at the Centre for Peace Advancement, reach out to Director Paul Heidebrecht at paul.heidebrecht@uwaterloo.ca.