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I’ve noticed several residential co-ops springing up in my area

Dear Urban Decoder: I’ve noticed several residential co-ops springing up in my area. What exactly is a co-op?—Tabitha Raudseps, Church and Wellesley

Co-ops are curious condo-rental hybrids. They’re similar to condos, in that a given building belongs to its residents. But whereas condo dwellers own their individual units, nobody involved in a co-op owns a single square foot of real estate. Instead, residents become members of a non-profit corporation, which in turn owns the building. They fork over a monthly fee to their organizations, much like the rent you’d pay for an apartment but theoretically cheaper, because every dime goes back into the property rather than some landlord’s pocket. A board elected by the residents (shades of condo again) oversees maintenance, social events and vetting new members. Despite the vaguely cultish undertones, this isn’t some fringe scene: more than 45,000 Torontonians live in the city’s 165 co-ops.

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