Propolis is a non-profit co-operative based in Kamloops, B.C. that is creating a community of environmentally conscious individuals, brought together by a shared vision of affordable and sustainable housing.
We had the pleasure of meeting Lindsay Harris, the co-founder and president of the Propolis Cooperative Housing Society, and learning more about their ambitions for the co-ops’ first project. Lindsay, who works with Kamloops Food Policy Council, has long had a focus on community economic development. “I have always taken a systems approach to food insecurity, and for me, that also encompasses housing,” she shares.
Propolis has partnered with local Kamloops resident, Miles Pruden, who owns a sustainable real estate development company, to bring the project to life. Miles’ company, Nexbuild Construction, built what has been dubbed as Kamloops’ most sustainable multi-family home (which can be viewed below). With Miles’ expertise, the co-op hopes to construct housing that is not only better for the environment but also reduces ongoing energy and maintenance expenses for tenants.
Lindsay got in touch with Tapestry Community Capital because she sees Community Bonds as a flexible tool that could work in tandem with financing that they are hoping to secure from the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC). Over the last year, Lindsay has conducted her own research on the community financing landscape in British Columbia, making use of a BC-based toolkit for starting a community investment cooperative. “I wear a lot of hats and have many projects on the go, and I decided I ultimately didn’t have the capacity to also start up a community investment co-operative, and that’s why I was so excited to learn that Tapestry already has the needed infrastructure in place to raise community investment.”
“One of the things that has become very evident from our conversations with our network and with the community is that there are a number of people that are very interested in substantively supporting this work but we need a platform for them to be able to invest,” Lindsay shares. Lindsay came prepared with a list of questions about Community Bonds, all of which are very familiar to the Tapestry Team.
Are we better to have a smaller group of high-net-worth investors, or a wider group of community members contributing smaller investments?
This is a common question, and the simple answer is – it depends. Community bonds offer an incredible pathway to engage your community and create lasting relationships. On the flip side, we understand that organizations need capital to bring their projects to life. “We think there can be a happy medium and that’s why we often design a Community Bond campaign with multiple investment options,” shares Ryan Collins-Swartz, Tapestry’s Co-Executive Director. “For example, there may be one bond that offers a lower entry point and perhaps a shorter duration, and this would allow for more widespread engagement, and then another that might have a higher entry point, longer duration and slightly higher interest rate that is better suited to higher net worth individuals.”
Is it possible for institutions to invest in Community Bonds, such as foundations?
“Definitely!” shares Ryan. “We see huge interest from foundations because many have earmarked specific funds for impact investment, and they are always on the lookout for investable projects with social and environmental impact. We have also seen companies, both big and small, being very interested in investing.”
How are interest rates set?
This is a key step in the Tapestry process. We want to make sure that Community Bond issuers are going to the market with an investment opportunity that fits their financial needs, but also an offering that is exciting and attractive to their community. “It’s a multi-step process, but financial modelling of an organization’s financial capacity and projects, along with community consultations, is really key,” shares Ryan.
Can community bonds offer patient capital?
“The beautiful thing about Community Bonds is that they put the control in the hands of the issuer. If you wanted to issue a bond with a 15-year term, we could certainly explore your community’s appetite to make a longer-term investment,” says Ryan.
Lindsay shared that prior to meeting Tapestry they had a perception that raising community investment was a complex process, and they had felt fearful to take it on alone. “Kamloops is an incredibly community-minded place, and I have no doubt that there would be widespread support and involvement in a campaign like this.”
The Co-op is currently looking at properties for their first project and are advocating to the City of Kamloops to sell a piece of city-owned property. Lindsay shares that this has been a slow process, but that moving on private properties comes with its own set of challenges. “We are definitely facing hurdles in terms of being able to move quickly on a property – we are hoping Community Bonds can be part of the solution.”