There is nothing like being inside the building, and the community, to get a real sense of how one cohousing community works. On Wednesday January 8, 2020, Ashley Martin and Brandon Harder, from the Regina Leader Post, visited with us. We think they did an excellent job conveying the complexity, beauty, and uniqueness of cohousing. You can read their article here: ‘Prairie Spruce residents settling into their unique new home in Regina’ by Ashley Martin, photos by Brandon Harder.
Our story begins in the spring of 2011 when a group of people who recognized the value of community in their own lives and its benefits to the surrounding neighbourhood started looking at creative options for housing in Regina. On the suggestion of a local community organization, they met to discuss the cohousing concept and learned about a cohousing project that was being developed in Saskatoon. Two members of Wolf Willow Cohousing in Saskatoon were invited to speak at a later meeting in Regina. Following this meeting, discussions about cohousing began. Monthly meetings were held, community representatives were consulted, a mission statement was drafted, and information about the project was circulated through the wider community.
On December 12, 2011, Sheila Coles interviewed two members on CBC’s The Morning Edition. Many people who heard the interview attended the regular meeting that took place that evening. Enthusiasm grew, and the word spread.
The January 2012 meeting was pivotal. Twenty-seven people attended, several of whom now form the core of the present group. Plans were made to invite a cohousing consultant to Regina. The group also agreed to implement a social element in the form of potluck suppers before general meetings.
Prairie Spruce: What’s in a Name?
As part of our original visioning exercise, we drew pictures of people, sketched out homes and a spruce tree. Later, the group looked back on these pictures for inspiration for a name. The spruce tree “struck a chord” with the group. Spruce trees stay green and look alive year round. Also “green” can be associated with the sustainable green building aspect. Prairie seemed appropriate to help identify the location of the cohousing development. Commons refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. Thus Prairie Spruce Commons. Our story had a name.
Getting it Built
In May 2012, a weekend “Getting Your Community Built” workshop was held. Regular monthly potlucks and meetings continued through the next year. Committees were formed to build community, deal with legal and financial issues, search for land, and explore design ideas. By the end of the year, our name was registered and the incorporation process was underway.
Project managers Chris ScottHanson (author of The Cohousing Handbook) and Jasen Robillard of Connexus Cohousing Collaborative were contracted in June 2013 and given the task of finding land. We worked with Regina architects Pattison MGM (now 1080 Architecture) and developer Fiorante Homes and Commercial Ltd. to create the stunning building that is now Prairie Spruce Commons. We took possession of the building on October 18, 2019.
A sense of rapport, spirit and hope continues to grow among community members.
Cohousing is for me because I have always wanted to live in intentional community living lightly on the earth. – Faye Huggins
Cohousing is a lifestyle that provides the perfect combination of privacy and community. It is a creative way for people to have beautiful private units and shared common space. Prairie Spruce is a neighbourhood in a unique green building and healthy environment. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private units contain all the features of conventional homes but owners also share the extensive common facilities such as outside terraces, gardens, a workshop and a common kitchen and dining area.
How To Know if Cohousing Is For You
You desire a more meaningful connection with your neighbors
You enjoy sharing and helping others
You want to live lightly on the earth
You want to live abundantly through sharing stuff and skills
You want to age in place
You want to raise your kids in an urban village
You want to live among people from all walks of life
You celebrate the diversity of people and cultures in your city
Prairie Spruce Commons offers easy access to great food, green spaces, cultural, retail and recreational offerings, educational centres and places of employment. It’s one of the reasons we’re most excited about our new neighbourhood.
Our Neighbourhood Walk Score
Prairie Spruce Commons’ neighborhood has a Walk Score of 76, Very Walkable, is reflective of the wonderful neighbourhood we live in. Most errands can be done on foot. As the area sees further development, the Walk Score will only improve, becoming a Walker’s Paradise.
Imagine yourself at the centre of ever-widening concentric circles.
First Circle, 1/2 kilometer
Doctors, physiotherapists, dentists and a local pharmacy
Restaurants, pubs and coffee shops
Mike’s independent Grocery
Canadian Broadcasting Centre
Canadian Girl Guides
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Regina Open Door Society
Regina Transit bus stops
Two high schools: Miller Comprehensive and Balfour Collegiate
University of Regina, College Avenue Campus
Wascana Centre, one of the largest urban parks in North America covering a total area of 2,300 acres. Includes Wascana Lake, Wascana Park with a playground, walk/wheeling and ski trails, and Wascana Pool
Second Circle, 1-2 kilometers
Arcola Elementary School
Conexus Centre for the Arts
Cornwall Centre Mall
Davin Elementary School
Kramer IMAX Theatre
Regina Central Library
Regina City Hall
Regina General Hospital
Royal Saskatchewan Museum
Saskatchewan Science Centre
St. Agustine Elementary School
Third circle: 3-5 kilometers
Douglas Park Elementary School
First Nations University of Canada
MacKenzie Art Gallery
Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology
Several preschools and day care centres
St. Andrew Elementary school (French Immersion), University of Regina
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.
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 participated in the planning and design of their own housing 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.
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.
Who lives in cohousing?
Cohousing is for people who want to participate in their community.
Prairie Spruce Commons is 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 members 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 asked 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 has 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 welcomes most pets (two per household). 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 provides for personal space and individual privacy.
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 I move in?
There will be monthly condo fees that each household will pay.
There will continue to be periodic meetings to make decisions about the operation of the community.
Members contribute to the administration, maintenance, and upkeep of the building and grounds (to keep monthly fees as low as possible.)
What is the common house?
All residences are completely self-contained with full kitchens but also share extensive common facilities that are designed for daily use. The Prairie Spruce common house includes a large kitchen and dining room for meals and social gatherings, guest room, lounge, terraces, laundry facilities (supplementary to optional in-home laundry), workshop, and gardens.
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 members 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 might also watch out for the property of an absent resident.
How many homes are there in the project?
Prairie Spruce Commons has 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 does it cost?
Unit prices are a reflection of total costs incurred in building Prairie Spruce Commons on Badham Boulevard.
Prairie Spruce Commons purchased the land and building from Fiorante Homes & Commercial. We designed the building with our architects and the developer determined the cost of getting it built. We combined these two costs and divided the total cost into the square footage of the 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 cost of building of each unit. PST is not charged on unit prices because we signed our contract prior to the change in Saskatchewan legislation.
Condo fees are set by the cohousing group with representatives from each condo being on the board making the decisions. The fees vary according to the size of the unit. For details about the condo fees for specific units please contact our realtor, Terrie Dunand.
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
Find Out More
Where Can I Learn More About Cohousing?
Click on the links below to learn more about cohousing
Prairie Spruce Commons is a cohousing community in an apartment-style condominium intentionally designed to use resources wisely and to encourage cooperation as well as friendly interaction among residents and neighbours, individuals and families. This inclusive, safe and authentic community is one that respects, shares & cares.
How Cohousing Works
Cohousing communities are typically designed, managed and maintained by its residents using consensus-based decision-making.
Cohousing communities are places where people work together to enrich their lives and improve their environment. Bringing people close together can make it easier to share resources and be a place where individual skills are shared and valued. The cohousing model recognizes that respecting the needs of introverts and extroverts can help support community life.
Participation Is Key
Membership in Prairie Spruce Commons is by household and each household participates in the ongoing life of the community. Each household is asked to attend general meetings and contribute to committee work. Other involvement can take on many forms, allowing for individual talents and preferences to shine.
Consensus is different from most other kinds of decision-making because it encourages group members to work together and collaboratively develop solutions to common questions. Since the goal is group unity and the common good, rather than winning a majority of votes, every member is important. The community as a result tries to listen to and respond to each person’s needs and opinions.
As a community, we recognize that the consensus process requires commitment and patience, but we believe that the resulting decisions are better, more effective and, in the long term more time efficient. A true consensus decision reflects the concerns and creativity of all the members of the group and the process of uniting these generates the solution that best responds to the needs of that group.
One of the reasons that Cohousing is important to me is because it offers compelling possibilities for living in ways that day-by-day respect Earth and one another. – Ruth Blaser
I married into a Danish family. My in-laws and husband were all born in Denmark. Despite living in Canada for 40 years, they still maintain many Danish traditions. Most of my favorites involve food. I have been introduced to smørrebrød – open faced sandwiches that must be eaten with a knife and fork. I have come to love herring and the occasional shot of aquavit. There is always risalamande (rice pudding with almonds) at Christmas.
It is usually topped with cherry pie filling, but last year it was topped with homemade cherry preserves. It was amazing. Tart cherry goodness mixed with creamy rice sweetness, this was something that I had to learn how to make.
Making cherry preserves is not that easy. It takes a lot of work to pick and pit the cherries. So I asked the other members of Prairie Spruce to give us a hand. Not only did we get Prairie Spruce members out, we even got some friends of cohousing out to pick. There were seven of us picking cherries.
Ann told us about picking cherries at boarding school in England. She said they were let into the fenced in an orchard and not allowed out until all the cherries were picked.
Henning was a bit slower than Ann as his pail didn’t have a handle. I don’t think he had quite as much experience picking berries either.
It didn’t take long for the cherry trees to be stripped bare. Then we moved onto the other berries that needed to be picked. Murray and James picked a gallon or two of saskatoons and Knud picked raspberries.
The afternoon ended with tea and ice cream with fresh raspberries for all. Murray took home the saskatoons, hopefully, to make one of his famous fruit crisps. Eva had two huge bowls of cherries, ready to be pitted. I helped pit, but she was so much faster with her hairpin.
Sharing is one of the core values of Prairie Spruce Commons.
‘Proceed as Way Opens’ is a Quaker concept used to guide wise decisions and actions. Although we are not part of a Quaker community, we recognize, as a result of a generous gift from anonymous donors, a way has opened in Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing.
Because of the generosity of this gift, we were able to significantly reduce the prices on our remaining units. When we began working with our architects PMGM (now 1080 Architecture), Saskatchewan and Regina were at the peak of a booming economy. We designed a beautiful, energy efficient building that is environmentally sustainable, exceeds soundproofing requirements, maximizes natural light, and has generous community spaces and unique private units. We are nearing the completion of construction, and we can now offer these high-quality units (and shared common space) at prices that are in keeping with our current economy. Thank you to the generous donors who helped make this happen.
Have you watched Ellen DeGeneres play Heads Up! on her showEllen? It is a fun game where you hold a word on your forehead and others give you clues to help you discover the word. On the Ellen show the words are often the names of movies or movie stars. When the Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing community played Heads Up!, the words we used were feelings or needs (feelings examples: tender, warm, relieved, surprised, hopeless, irate, proud, and needs examples: safety, choice, belonging, participation). There were outbursts of laughter as we played together. It was a creative and fun way to expand our conscious communication literacy. At Prairie Spruce Commons we are investing in our future by learning the skills of conscious communication with the support of Jodi Woollam
It is not easy to begin to pay attention to and alter the ways we communicate. We can feel anxious, uncomfortable, and awkward. These are feelings most of us want to avoid, but doing it in a playful way makes it easier. Any time you try something new, like building a bird house or learning to cook or taking up a new sport, there is a period where it is unfamiliar, but approaching it as play really helps lighten the experience. On a recent episode of The Nature of Things, David Suzuki met with people around the world who are exploring the nature and role of play in animals. They are learning that play is essential in social bonding. At Prairie Spruce Commons we are also learning how play is contributing to our social bonding.
To learn more about conscious communication click here
To learn more about Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing click here
We currently have seven units available at Prairie Spruce Commons, 1625 Badham Boulevard, Regina.
The show suite is open Saturday and Sunday from 2 pm – 4 pm or to book a time please phone Dave at 306-586-1363 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you crying?
There’s no crying in baseball”
I was channeling Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) from A League of Their Own a few days ago. Except my brain inserted “a meeting” instead of “baseball.” Yet there I was, crying, not once, but twice, at a meeting about topsoil and trees.
Before you read any further, let me assure you they were happy tears at an unexpected gift, something no one, not even my husband, knew I wanted.
I was the youngest of 18 grandchildren. I was blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with my grandmother. She taught me how to crochet, cook, and garden. She taught me the importance of family and the power of Faith. She had 101 years on this Earth before, in her words, “Jesus took her up to Glory”.
I wanted to do something to honor her memory. It took me a long time to decide that I wanted to plant an oak tree to symbolize her strength and longevity. I never got around to it as I never knew where to plant the tree. I didn’t want to plant it in Yorkton, on my mom’s farm, that seemed too far away. I didn’t want to plant it at my house in Regina, as I knew we would be moving at some point. I even thought about planting one in Wascana Park, in the middle of the night, and hoping no one would notice.
Imagine my joy, and happy tears, when I found out that there would be two oaks trees planted at Prairie Spruce. They are going to be near the front entrance so I can see them when I leave for work; what a wonderful start that will be to my day.
The SOG (Soils, Outdoors, and Garden) team has done an amazing job. They started with the original landscape design by PMGM Architecture, now 1080 Architecture, Planning + Interiors. Then they consulted the City of Regina, the University of Saskatchewan, haskap grower Charles Lipnick, and our own Prairie Spruce member, Dr. Knud Mortensen.
Their task was to find trees and shrubs that
were hardy to zone 3b,
were grown in Saskatchewan,
would provide color all year round,
could shade and shelter the building and ourselves from sun and wind,
provide food and shelter for birds, and
Not an easy task, but I am happy to report that they succeeded. We are going to have Goodland and Honeycrisp apple trees for apple crisps. We will have Borealis and Indigo Treat haskap berries. Laurie has more experience with them than I do, so I will be learning from her. I will be picking, and Eva will be canning (hopefully), the Carmine Jewel sour cherries. I will be teaching everyone the secrets of saskatoon perogies. The rest of the landscaping will be completed with blue spruce, mungo pines, linden trees, ninebarks and, of course, two oak trees.