Danish cohousing trend gaining strength in B.C.
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012 3:12PM PDT Last Updated Thursday, September 27, 2012 7:37PM PDT
Metro Vancouverites pining for real connections in their neighbourhood are finding solace in cohousing developments, a housing trend started in Denmark that is making waves here in British Columbia.
At the Cranberry Commons cohousing townhouse complex in Burnaby, B.C., everyone knows their neighbours. Children play freely in the courtyard and condo owners of all ages gather for group meals at least once a week.
There are 22 townhouse and apartment style homes arranged around a central courtyard. Residents own their own suites, but share the common areas -- things like a guest suite, children's play room, library and workshop. There are regular movie nights in the dining room.
Eighty-nine-year-old June McFadyen is the oldest resident, and says she cherishes the togetherness
"You're never lonely -- and yet if you want to be alone, you can just walk into your unit and shut the door,” she said.
Unlike co-operative buildings, which are legal entities that own real estate, cohousing is a privately owned lifestyle choice.
In the simplest sense, cohousing is the process by which residents work together to build and create their own neighbourhood. Owners in developments usually participate in the planning and building of the units, with members using a consensus process to make decisions, no matter how small.
A recent New York Times article said co-housing "speaks to people who want to own an apartment but not feel shut off by it, lost in an impersonal city.”
Cranberry Commons resident Zan Romeder describes it as “very homey.”
“There are lots of trades going on, carpooling,” she told CTV’s Steele on Your Side. “My daughter can babysit and just cross the courtyard without having to go anywhere."
The owners at Cranberry Commons share a lot of things, from their friendship and experience, to vehicles, says Ronaye Matthew, one of the founders of the cohousing movement in B.C., and a longtime resident.
“There's a few people in the community who share cars, and if you think about the cost of owning a car that's almost as much as a mortgage payment,” she said.
The concept of cohousing started in Denmark 30 years ago, where hundreds of developments now exist. In B.C. there are communities in seven cities, including Langley, North Vancouver, Nanaimo, Courtenay, Nelson and the Sunshine Coast.
Cohousing units are also being built in Victoria, Nelson, near Lumby and Qualicum Beach.
Members of the first Vancouver project -- dubbed a multigenerational, sustainable community in Kensington-Cedar cottage -- have applied for rezoning to allow the project to go forward. It will be built as privately owned, fully equipped homes that are “family supportive, senior friendly and energy efficient.”
The citizens group -- made of up 15 interested families -- purchased three older homes on East 33rd Ave with plans to turn it into 27 units. A two-bedroom, 875-square-foot unit will cost around $480,000.
One big hindrance to building cohousing communities is finding affordable and available land. Most big parcels are already owned by conventional developers. Cohousing advocates hope to see developers partner with cohousing groups in the future.
Have your say: Would you consider living in a cohousing development?