For information about Vancouver Cohousing project or about cohousing in general, please start with these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
What is cohousing?
Cohousing communities are collaborative neighborhoods created with a measure of ingenuity. They bring together the value of having private homes, with the benefits of more sustainable living. Residents actively participate in the design and operation of their neighborhoods. They share common facilities and build and maintain good connections with neighbors. Cohousing provides innovative and sustainable answers to today’s environmental and social challenges.
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 have become the basis for ongoing community growth and development.
The Vancouver Cohousing community is supported and sustained by the following five principles:
1. Collaborative and participatory processes
2. An architectural design that supports community
3. Private homes supplemented by common facilities
4. Resident-managed facilities
5. Non-hierarchical structures
Where and when did cohousing begin?
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 in the 1980s, by architects Charles Durrett and Katherine McCamant, who coined the term “cohousing” to describe this style of development. There are now more than 14 completed cohousing communities in Canada with another 5 in process and the United States had 150 complete and about 140 in various stages of planning and development.
People Who Live in Cohousing
Who lives in cohousing?
Members of the Vancouver Cohousing group include many people who have thought about the idea of creating community, long before they ever heard the term “cohousing.” Our members seek to improve their quality of life, and are interested in, and care for, their larger community. Vancouver Cohousing residents think globally and act locally.
Is the cohousing model best for certain family types?
Cohousing is for people who want to live in closer proximity to their neighbours for increased interaction, support, and a sense of belonging. The Vancouver Cohousing community has created a multi-generational community that enables meaningful connection and relationships, allows space for authentic expression, encourages personal growth, and generates a sense of safety and belonging.
Families who resonate with this sense of purpose find themselves at home within the Vancouver Cohousing community.
Does Vancouver Cohousing have religious or political affiliations?
We include and welcome those with a variety of beliefs and cultural origins. Our community is diverse in age, background, and family type. Our emphasis is on quality of life, including the nurture of children, youth and elders. There is no social agenda beyond creating a friendly neighbourhood where all residents feel accepted and comfortable.
Do members own their own homes?
Almost all of our 31 homes are privately owned; 2 are rental units. Although the method of ownership in cohousing can vary, it is most common to use the strata title ownership structure; similar to most condominiums across Vancouver. In this model, each household owns its own home, plus a share of the common facilities and spaces. This ownership model is quite simple and straightforward, and therefore makes it easier to finance.
What if a community member want to sell his or her home?
As with any other privately owned home, a member who wishes to sell needs to find a buyer. Because of the collaborative nature of cohousing, opportunities exist for promoting cohousing in ways beyond the traditional real estate marketing methods. (There is always a waiting list of interested buyers!)
How do you balance public and private space?
Members value a balance of privacy as well as social contact. It’s important to members to have their own homes and private space. (For example, we signal a need for privacy by keeping our blinds down–and then no one knocks!) A unique aspect of cohousing is that the citizen-developers participate in a creating a community that reflects their values.
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.
Who owns the property?
Currently, the property is owned by Cedar Cottage Cohousing Corporation. Cedar Cottage Cohousing Corporation is a legal company that is entirely owned and operated by all of the members of Vancouver Cohousing.
Who owns the common house?
The common house is jointly owned by all strata owners. It is a hub for activities of residents, and often includes friends and neighbours beyond Vancouver Cohousing in events, meetings, activities, and celebrations.
Use of the common house strengthens relationships within the cohousing group and beyond.
What is a common house?
Residents of the Vancouver Cohousing community have access to all of its shared facilities. These include a well equipped kitchen for quantity food production, a dining room, lounge, craft room, a yoga room, business center, 2 guest bedrooms, bike storage, workshop, parking, and rooms for children and youth.
These shared facilities support and sustain connection by supplementing individual dwellings with shared amenities that were chosen and designed with resident participation.
Do members have to share a kitchen with other members of the community?
Every home is self-sufficient, with its own kitchen. Beyond this, the common house kitchen and dining room allow optional attendance at 3 dinners and 1 brunch every week, in addition to other shared meals and celebrations. Meals are prepared by a team of 3 community members, and another 3 share in the cleanup. It works out that each adult cooks once very 3 weeks and cleans up once very 3 weeks. Children sometimes take part in these activities.
Shared meals are an important aspect of community life for social and practical reasons. These are optional, however, and people always have the choice of eating in their own homes.
What’s expected of members?
Members work together to organize upkeep. Monthly strata maintenance fees cover ongoing costs, and regular meetings will facilitate the running of the community.
How much time is involved?
There is not a set amount of time. Members take part in one or more teams of their choice, that manage finances, facilitate meetings, look after the outdoors and landscaping, maintain and clean the building, and arrange social events. Residents enjoy social gatherings, recognising that the foundation of community is friendship. Regular business meetings and committee meetings are scheduled as needed for member input and decisions.
Is meeting attendance required?
Everyone needn’t attend every meeting. Is is recognized that meetings provide opportunities to work together, define needs, and make dreams come true. Attendance at the meetings is a prerequisite for having a voice in the community.
Is this like living in a co-op?
In co-ops, the cooperative owns the unit. Members purchase shares and pay housing charges that give them the right to occupy the unit. In cohousing, individual households purchase their own units, or rent from members of the community.
Is this like living in a dorm?
Not at all. Each private home has its own living, dining and sleeping areas, along with a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom.
Is this like living in a gated community?
Cohousing communities are the opposite of gated communities. They are open and welcoming and are connected with the surrounding community. They focus on sustainable living, mutual support and inclusion. At the same time, there are gates, which provide safety and prevent young children from wandering off!
Do I get free day care, elder care, or help if I get sick?
As with other friends and well known neighbours, people help each other in informal ways. Members provide friendship and support in times of need, but are not primary caregivers for others’ needs. Any particular, ongoing care for individuals would be arranged privately.