The frequently asked questions are frequent—obviously. They are understandable and expected. Cohousing is not different from many communities and neighborhoods you have lived in. Rather than developing over decades, in cohousing a group forms with the intention of creating a community.
What is Cohousing?
Cohousing is a process by which a group of people work together to create and maintain their own intentionally-designed neighbourhood.
By collaborating with an architect and project facilitators, Prairie Spruce Commons is participating in the planning and design of their own housing development. Along the way, our group has formed bonds that will become the basis for ongoing community growth and development.
How did cohousing get started?
In the late 1960′s a group of Danish families decided to create their own resident-developed neighbourhoods as an alternative to traditional housing models. They wanted a community where they would know their neighbours and that would be safer because people would watch out for each other and strangers would easily be noticed. They wanted to reduce the stress of their daily lives by easing day-to-day burdens such as child care and cooking. They wanted to reduce their impact on the land and create communities that were environmentally sensitive and sustainable. Today, 10% of all new housing constructed in Denmark use this model.
It was introduced to North America in 1988 by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett. While studying at the University of Copenhagen they learned of bofaellesskaber (which translated means a living community). They renamed it cohousing and the phrase is now listed in the Oxford English dictionary. Since that time, over 100 cohousing communities have been completed in North America including many in Canada.
What is the difference between a co-operative, a commune, and cohousing?
In a co-operative, the development is owned by the group and the units are rented. In a commune, all property and personal resources are shared with the community. In cohousing, people own their homes as well as a share of the common space. People in cohousing often choose to share resources to live more affordably, for example, sharing a snow blower or lawn mower.
What kinds of people live in cohousing?
Cohousing is for people who want to participate in their community.
Prairie Spruce Commons is building a community which is diverse in age, background and family type. The emphasis is on quality of life for all community members. There is no social agenda beyond creating a caring neighbourhood where all residents feel accepted and comfortable.
Generally, cohousing members have a desire to have a say in what their neighbourhood will be and a belief that having more connections with their neighbours will enhance their quality of life.
What does cohousing living entail?
Members own their own homes and are free to take part in as many or as few community social gatherings as they choose.
As a homeowner, members are expected to share decision-making, attend meetings, and contribute to the administration, maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and grounds (thereby keeping their monthly fees as low as possible).
Some people describe the cohousing community as an intentional neighbourhood. The goal of cohousing members is simply the desire to have a more defined sense of community with their neighbours, some of whom might be quite different from themselves.
Most people who are attracted to cohousing are actively seeking diversity in their community. They want to live with others who will expand their horizons.
Will I own my own home?
Yes. Each unit will have a condominium title ownership under which each household owns its own home and a share of common facilities.
Can I bring my pet?
Yes–probably. Prairie Spruce Commons will welcome most pets. Please ask further about the pet policy.
Will I have privacy?
Yes. In cohousing, members participate in a process to create a community that reflects their values. Most people in our culture value privacy so the community will be designed to provide a balance of privacy and community.
The building design will afford all the personal space and individual privacy a person desires.
If I live in cohousing, will I have my own kitchen?
Yes. This is a frequently asked question.
In addition to a kitchen in each unit, every cohousing community does have a common kitchen/dining area. The community will make a decision on how often community meals are available. Participation in the eating of these meals is voluntary, but everyone takes turns in making the meals.
A report of the Toronto-based Creative Communities and Collaborative Housing Society entitled Planning Cohousing (Ottawa: Energy Pathways, 1997) states that “[t]he idea of 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.”
What will be expected of me after the development is completed?
There will be monthly maintenance fees that each household will pay.
There will continue to be periodic meetings to make decisions about the operation of the community.
Members will be expected to contribute to the administration, maintenance, and upkeep of the building and grounds (to keep monthly fees as low as possible.)
What is a common house?
All residences are completely self-contained with full kitchens but also share extensive common facilities that are designed for daily use. The common house includes such things as a large kitchen and dining room for meals and social gatherings, guest rooms, children’s play area, laundry facilities (supplementary to optional in-home laundry) and workshop.
Do members share meals together?
The common facilities, and particularly shared meals, are an important aspect of community life for both social and practical reasons. However, shared activities are always optional. People always have the option of cooking and eating in their own homes. Typically about 60% of the residents participate in shared meals on a regular basis.
In existing communities, shared meals can be available from a few nights a month to as many as seven nights per week.
The meals are generally prepared by 2 – 4 people for however many diners sign up in advance for that particular meal. As noted above, eating community meals is always voluntary. Typically each adult is expected to be involved in meal prep and/or clean-up once every 4 – 5 weeks. Members only pay for the meals they eat.
What about safety and security?
Because cohousing members know all their neighbours, they have an excellent neighbourhood watch system built into their communities. Someone who is not a member of the community is very easily recognized. Members of the community also watch out for the property of an absent resident.
How many homes will there be in the project?
Prairie Spruce Commons will have 21 privately owned units. This is within the optimal range for cohousing communities, which has been pegged at 15 to 36 households.
How are decisions made?
Decision-making is shared by all members. Decisions are made using the consensus model. This puts everyone on an equal footing, avoids power struggles, encourages everyone to participate by communicating openly and provides an opportunity for people to see a variety of points of view.
What will it cost?
Unit prices are a reflection of total costs incurred in building Prairie Spruce Commons on Badham Boulevard.
Prairie Spruce Commons is purchasing the land and building from Fiorante Homes & Commercial. We have designed the building and the developer has figured out the cost of getting it built. We have summed these two costs and divided the total cost into the number of units. Note, that there is no profit added to the costs before determining unit prices; the prices are set in order to fully cover the building of each unit.
For more information on cohousing unit pricing & value, please read this blog post.
Are there condo fees and how are they set?
Condo fees are set by the cohousing group with representatives from each condo being on the board making the decisions. The fees will vary according to the size of the unit. A professional with a background in building fee assessment often assists the group through this process.
What if I have to or want to move out of the community and must sell my unit?
When it comes to resales, experience has shown that homes in cohousing hold their value
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Where Can I Learn More About Cohousing?
Click on the links below to learn more about cohousing