People often contact us with questions about the Vancouver Cohousing project and cohousing in general. If you’re looking for information about either of these things, please start with these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
By collaborating with architect Charles Durrett (McCamant & Durrett Architects), the Vancouver Cohousing group participated in the planning and design of their own housing development. These steps were then implemented by our team of professionals led by Eighth Avenue Development and Ankenman Marchand Architects
Along the way, our group has formed bonds that will become the basis for ongoing community growth and development.
The Vancouver Cohousing community is undergirded by the following five principles:
1. Collaborative, participatory processes
2. Centripetal neighbourhood design
3. Private homes supplemented by common facilities
4. Resident-managed facilities
5. Non-hierarchical structures
In the late 1960s, a group of Danish families, dissatisfied with existing urban and suburban living options, decided to create their own resident-developed neighbourhood. This was created as an alternative to traditional housing models.
Desiring a community where residents knew their neighbours, and where people would look out for each other, they created “bofoellesskaber” – literally translated as “living communities.” Such communities increased safety, reduced the stresses of child care and cooking, and helped individuals to pursue their own goals while living in a supportive community. In addition, such communities reduced impact on the land and were built in environmentally sensitive and sustainable ways.
Cohousing was introduced in North America by architects Charles Durrett and Katherine McCamant in the 1980s, who coined the term “cohousing” to describe this style of development. There are now more than forty completed cohousing communities in Canada and the United States, and hundreds more in various stages of planning.
Families who resonate with this sense of purpose will find themselves at home within the Vancouver Cohousing community.
The 1997 Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) study entitled “Planning Cohousing” reported:
“While the shared amenities are integral to cohousing, some believe privacy is more respected in cohousing communities than elsewhere. The idea of a shared kitchen and dining facilities does not stem from a notion that meals should be communal, but a recognition that sometimes communal meals are desirable and benefit everyone.”
There can be more privacy in cohousing because the amenity areas provide meeting places, play areas, guest rooms and work spaces, while the individual dwelling is a place of privacy and retreat.
The use of the common house strengthens relationships throughout the entire neighbourhood (i.e. both internal to the cohousing group, between the cohousing group and the neighbourhood, and within the neighbourhood).
The shared facilities of the common house are designed to support and sustain community connection over time by supplementing individual dwellings with shared common amenities that were decided upon, and designed with resident participation.
In cohousing, the common facilities, and particularly shared meals, are an important aspect of community life for both social and practical reasons. That said, shared activities are always optional, and people always have the choice of eating in their own homes.