Recalling 50 years with WCRI

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Waterloo Cooperative Residence Inc. (WCRI), one of North America&rsquo;s largest housing co-operatives, celebrated its 50th anniversary with music and festivities Oct. 3.&nbsp;</p>

Native to Waterloo, the non-profit housing community currently houses over 700 students in both suite and dorm-style accommodations. Uniquely, co-operatives such as WCRI offer residents the opportunity to be part-owners of the establishment. Here, students can participate in the housing’s judicial system, volunteering staff, or even as a board member.

During the event, many of WCRI’s past residents recalled its long history.

“Initially, the university was not in favor of the co-operative,” said Larry Sadler, one of WCRI’s first residents in 1965. “They were not participants in the construction [of WCRI] even though housing was tight.”

When asked what they thought about WCRI today, many of the former residents expressed disappointment with some of the changes, particularly with the increased security.

“When we were here everything was open — it was a community. Now it is all locked,” said Beth Malcolm, a member of WCRI from 1975-1978. 

However, the former residents also had many positive things to say about the co-operative’s influence on their careers.

“I was in physics, but then because of my involvement [on the board] I went into business,” said Sadler.

Malcolm also recounted a time where the male residents would walk the female residents home after their night classes to prevent sexual assault: “Everybody always stepped up, we took care of each other.”

Many of the current members expressed gratitude that they were able to participate in the 50th anniversary.

“I am happy [the 50th anniversary] happened in a year where I live here” mentioned a member of the board, adding that talking to the co-operative’s alumni has been enlightening. “I didn’t think we would have so much in common.” 

While discussing how WCRI compares to other co-operatives, another member said, “WCRI is very academic oriented — it is very Waterloo.”

When asked if he would let his child live in WCRI, Joe Federer, a former resident who moved into WCRI in 1974 said, “Back then yes, now no,” further explaining that the feeling of community has progressed away from the way he remembered his time at WCRI. 

WCRI remains one of the largest housing co-operatives in North America, and is still growing. Two more housing units are currently being developed on Phillip Street. 

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