Client Profile: Bread and Roses Co-operative Homes

June 27th, 2018 by Iler Campbell

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Bread and Roses Co-op is a non-profit housing co-operative located in downtown Kitchener.

The co-op, established in 1990, includes a provincially designated heritage building that was built in 1879 as a button factory. Before being renovated to house 21 of the co‑op’s 66 units, the building was variously used for shirt manufacturing, as a barracks during the First World War, and for manufacturing felt, mattresses and electrical supplies. It is one of the most significant heritage landmarks in Kitchener and is the only remaining industrial building in Kitchener with a peaked roof. The heritage building is joined to a modern six story building that contains 45 apartments.

Bread and Roses’ founders were ahead of the curve with their vision of converting an old industrial building into housing in downtown Kitchener. In 1990, few people lived downtown by choice. That’s changed. Kitchener’s downtown is now a trendy, upscale address and the co-op is a bulwark against gentrification.

The co‑op’s name was inspired by the building’s industrial heritage. Bread and Roses is a political slogan, poem, and union song arising out of textile workers’ struggles for better wages (bread) and dignified working conditions (roses) in the 1910s. The song contains the phrase “hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!” The founding board thought it appropriate that the former factory which was once home to working conditions similar to those that inspired the slogan could be transformed to represent a positive fulfilment of those hopes. In providing affordable housing they found a new ‘bread’ and in the community they were building, and beautiful setting, a new ‘roses’.

And that’s not mentioning the literal roses you may well see in Bread and Roses’ gardens. The City of Kitchener has awarded its gardens a Kitchener in Bloom award 5 times, including each of the last 3 years. The gardens thrive thanks to Bread and Roses’ thriving community: they are maintained almost entirely through volunteer labour.

Bread and Roses is proud of its strong community engagement and of its members’ dedication to the co‑op movement and social justice. The co‑op strives to give business to and provide support to co‑op businesses whenever possible.

We’re proud to have counted Bread and Roses as an Iler Campbell client since 2013. Most recently we assisted them with negotiating a workout loan to enable them to make repairs and upgrades to the co‑op.

Filed in: Client Profiles, Housing