Field Notes from the Regina Folk Fest

There, on one of those short lawn chairs, squished between my friends on a clear and damp August prairie night and listening to good music with thousands, it was easy to love the culture of the Regina Folk Festival. Enjoying tasty local food, visiting, laughing, hoolahooping and sharing stories of the great storm from the night before… Even encountering a pod of crocheters looping long adorations to be placed in praise and protection of trees. It’s all part of the Folk Fest culture.

The more I think about the tapestry of culture (in families, workplaces, movements, bio-regions, community-based organizations), the more I think that creating culture is about what we value, and are committed to.  It’s about how we make decisions, and do things. It’s about how we negotiate, transact, adjust and apply all of that every day. We, Prairie Spruce Commons Co-Housers, are designing our house, creating community, and building our culture all at once.  The Prairie Spruce culture is being lived out through everyday experiences of being respectful, caring and sharing. This summer, fun has also been part of our culture, whether it’s been at  our booth at the Farmer’s Market, sitting around the fire on a gorgeous summer evening, or researching Fruit Crumble recipe’s for our Lets Get Ready to Crumble event next Tuesday August 19th.  

I feel lucky to have this chance to be part of, not only designing and building Prairie Spruce Commons, but also learning about creating culture from events like the Regina Folk Festival, other cohousing projects, and other community-based organizations.

Thanks to each and all of my Prairie Spruce community who ran the Prairie Spruce Commons Info and Visiting Booth at the Folk Festival. I hear it was a blast! Acknowledgement, praise and noticing where energies are placed is an important part of community and culture building too!




The Value and Cost of Cohousing in Regina

People we meet consistently express their support for the concept of cohousing and the design of Prairie Spruce Commons, but we also commonly hear questions about the unit prices. We want to share the following with you to help you understand the pricing for units.

Prairie Spruce Cohousing Pricing
Photo courtesy of Ken Teegardin on Flickr

Let’s start with the costs of developing cohousing in Regina. There are two categories of costs for our project.  The first category is the price we are paying the developer for the land and the building. The second category is our development overhead, or soft costs.  Our chosen strategy for developing Prairie Spruce was (and still is) to buy new housing product that meets the following criteria:

  • designed to meet our cohousing and personal household needs;
  • equal to or better than the local market product in terms of quality and specification;
  • wholesale discounted at -10% from  retail price.

Note that we have used Canterbury Commons II as our quality and specifications benchmark. Canterbury Commons II is a local retail housing product, built and sold very recently by the same developer we are partnering with.The discount allows us an additional 10% to cover our direct soft costs for marketing, membership and project management.

The resulting combination of hard costs (wholesale purchase of building and land) and soft costs amounts to the total cost for the project. This total cost is distributed proportionally over the individual unit prices. These unit prices are consistent with local prices for new housing product in Regina. Furthermore, the unit prices are calculated to ensure no profit or a loss for Prairie Spruce.

Prairie Spruce Cohousing WalkabilityWhen evaluating our prices, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. First, keep in mind the desirable location and the lower long term cost of ownership that results from living within walking distance to downtown and the other amenities in the neighbourhood. For example, you can live without a car, or with one fewer car thereby saving lots of money.

Secondly, while Cohousing units are proportionally a little smaller than standard housing units, the extensive space provided by the common house amenities makes the overall square footage available to residents substantially larger. The way you should adjust for that is to apportion a square footage share of the common house to each unit and use that as a comparable unit size.  As an example at Prairie Spruce, the owner of a 950 sq. ft. private unit ALSO owns a 1/27 share in a 4,100 sq ft common house.  This results in 1,100 sq ft of space.  When comparing to a non-cohousing product you must compare this unit to a traditional 1,100 sq ft unit.

Third, let’s consider the value and quality of the housing we are building. Our developer is building a high quality, long lasting building.  In Prairie Spruce Commons this includes things like:
• better insulation (r40 walls/r60 ceilings);
• increased ceiling heights above 8 ft.;
• improved sound insulation between units (STF 50 to STF 60);
• high efficiency centralized boiler;
• in floor radiant heating and cooling;
• triplepane windows

Our Green initiatives involve things like:
• building a better building to use less fuel to heat and cool;
• including recycling and composting facilities;
• using fibre glass windows because they last longer and PVC pollutes;
• electing to not use granite countertops because of huge energy required in production;
• installing wiring for Solar Photovoltaics and future energy savings; and
• installing plumbing for Greywater recycling and future savings in waste water management

Finally, it should be noted that new housing product costs more than older housing stock.  This is because new buildings are more energy efficient, better built, and will therefore last longer.

In summary, Prairie Spruce Commons is purchasing the land and building from our developer. 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.  These prices are a reflection of total costs incurred in building Prairie Spruce Commons on Badham Boulevard.

If you are interested in living with the Prairie Spruce Commons community but feeling daunted by the prices, please talk to us. We can direct you to options for first home buyers, our Conditional Equity Memberships, as well as other purchase options we are considering.

We Believe in Community First


Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what really matters in life. We believe the people around us matter the most, we believe in community first. We like helping others. We like reaching out, hosting social engagements, doing community service, or even just hosting a fruit crumble competition (we’re pretty proud of that last one).

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.” 
― Jean VanierCommunity And Growth


Prairie Spruce’s Answer to Cities for People Challenge

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

–Jane Jacobs

Prairie Spruce Commons is our way of saying YES to the invitation the Cities for People has issued:

At Cities For People, we see every city as an invitation. An invitation for interaction, innovation, change, inclusion, learning, love and growth. An invitation to think beyond the way things are and have always been, and come up with new ways to make where we live support how we would like to live.

I have been reading the Cities for People website and find it inspiring. It is helping me get out of the narrow marketing place where I have been stalled,  into a more transformative place. Yes, we need to have people purchase units, but reading Cites for People reminded me we are investing in more than walls and windows and doors; we are investing in a healthy vibrant community.


An Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Condominium in Regina?


At Prairie Spruce Commons we believe in building environmentally and socially sustainable condominiums in Regina. Environmentally, this starts with the building; solar panels on the roof, grey water ready, design to optimize natural light, in floor heating and cooling and gardens on several roof tops. The building is designed for the future. Minimizing the impact of housing over the next 50 years costs more up front but with this investment into your home, you can save a lot of money over the long run on utilities and upkeep. Plus, you can sleep soundly at night knowing you’re making Regina just a little bit better.

Prairie Spruce Commons is socially sustainable because we’re centred around the concept of community. Sharing with others, caring for others and being respectful of the people around us. Being a part of a community is healthy for the mind body and soul. Humans needs community to feel good, to feel like they’re a part of something, to feel needed. At Prairie Spruce we’re all a part of a special team that makes the living space that much better.

How many condominium developments actually encourage a sustainable development in Regina? Not enough! When it comes to building large structures in your city, you have to look at he sustainability of them and what the impact on the environment will be over time. The more sustainable condominiums in Regina the better.  

Field Notes from the Farmer's Market


Early morning, clear skies, soft breeze, and the smell of sweet onions wafting from the Hutterite’s vegetable stand over to our side. People walk/wheeling slowly as they carefully consider, anticipate and line up to buy the first gifts of the gardens.

Me and the men haul out our booth from the back of Murray’s truck and set it up. It’s not hard but it takes a few people working together to do it.  Once it is up and looking good we sit and visit. Cohousers always seem to have lots to talk about.

A continuous Prairie Spruce Commons presence at the Farmers Market is one of our cornerstones marketing strategies this summer.

Mornings at the Market pass easily, peacefully and happily as people come by one by one or in throngs …. You never know!

This summer I am reading So Far From Home by Margaret Wheatley.  It is an excellent and challenging read about how we can accomplish our work, sustain our relationships, and willingly move forward to serve in this troubled time.  She writes: ‘in this universe relationships are all there is, the fundamental prerequisite for anything to manifest’.

The Farmer’s Market is all about relationships including humans with each other, Earth and food.

It is all about relationship, even marketing!


Travel and Cohousing

Travel & cohousing… Do the two go together? From where I’m sitting, on this red rock at the shoreline where the Gulf of St. Lawrence kisses the white sand of Prince Edward Island, cohousing and travel are perfectly matched. 

We are here for a two week vacation with family and friends. Others of the Prairie Spruce community are at home in Regina, hosting information sessions, staffing our booth at the Farmers Market (stop by for a visit), getting the word out about this wonderful new adventure that is taking place in Regina. Others are at their cottage at the lake, one household is traveling in Denmark and one household is traveling and Sweden. In cohousing we share in the play and the work, that’s what a community is about. 

An additional bonus of cohousing is the international community. Membership in a cohousing community allows you to visit other cohousing communities across the globe and book the guest space. Check out the locations of a few cohousing communities around the world:

So, where should we book our next trip?

Brenda (& Ruth)

A Little Give and Take

Prairie Spruce Commons met this weekend with a daunting task. We found the unit prices that we were getting to be too high. Recognizing that we have to be able to sell the remaining units we were left with two conclusions; first that we would have to get rid of our most expensive units in favour of smaller more affordable units and second that we needed to trim the budget to reduce the overal cost of the building. Having to give back some of the wonderful features we have designed into this building was a highly charged and emotional task. Would people want to cut things that were dear to me or are the things I think we should cut dear to others.

It was a tough two days, but in the end we had trimmed a few areas where we had made rooms bigger than they needed to be, confirmed some things that we have always planned to cut and removed an initiative that we had reconsidered. But Wait!

In addition to the cutting we also found some things that we felt were underspecified and needed to be improved. We allocated additional money for improved windows, allocated new money to adopt a geothermal cooling loop on the advice of our mechanical engineer, and we are requesting a quote on upgraded shingles.

What came out of these meetings was a reconfirmation of our intent to build a building that is above and beyond what is normally built. We have chosen to spend extra on things like insulation, windows, heating infrastructure (in floor radiant),  geothermal cooling and we are still persuing grey water recycling. We are prepared to add Solar Voltaic panels when the time is right and we have a long term maintenance view choosing long term investments over short term savings.

We have found that on a square foot basis, when you include the massive amount of common space, our units are in line with other condos on the market.  The big difference is that we are cohousing! We have chosen not to build swimming pools or pool rooms. Instead we have built usable spaces and have chosen to build with the future in mind.
This is what the building will look like.The best parts, of course, are the parts you can’t see: the people that will make up this community.