Useful documents

Process for Building a Successful Cohousing Development

This is an excerpt from a book by Charles Durrett called “The Senior Cohousing Handbook” published by New Society Publishers, 2nd edition, 2009 — excerpt courtesy of Al Slavin.

The primary goal of senior cohousing is to enable “aging in place” with an intentional community that is compatible and supportive. The process outlined below builds on that formalized in Denmark in 1995 by Henry Nielsen, based on a number of successful projects there. It follows a participatory and consensus-based model, in which the group of people interested in developing a cohousing project first establish, over a few months, what their philosophical and physical goals are for the project, and use this as the basis for the physical design.

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Cohousing boot-camp manual:

This is an article from Live Well Cohousing, with some tips about how to structure meetings when trying to plan a cohousing project, including things like putting committees together to study and present conclusions on the various aspects like financing etc.

Okay, you’ve heard about cohousing and want to get serious about making your community happen. What next!? This Bootcamp Manual aims to help provide groups and individuals with some initial planning tools and check-lists to overcome the early obstacles to cohousing. The manual attempts to answer the question: How can a group of people who only met each other recently work together effectively to design, build and finance their own community?

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An article on senior cohousing:

This is an article from Communities magazine about senior cohousing, mostly focused on the background behind the Harbourside project in BC., written by one of the co-founders, a professor of anthropology who writes about her experience studying aboriginal culture in Vanuatu and how that got her started thinking about cohousing : (More)

Cohousing links:

Check out the websites for the Canadian Cohousing Network, as well as Canadian Senior Cohousing and the US-based

Here is a list of recommended books on cohousing.

Listen to CBC radio show about Harbourside, Sooke BC: BC seniors build a new way to age in place, or the PBS program about places in Denmark and the US:

Listen to Margaret Critchlow’s May 2017 talk to the Ottawa Convivium cohousing group: “Seniors Cohousing: A New Way to Thrive in Community”

Harbourside’s website: This website has videos, floorplans, and lots of detail about the process. Harbourside required a $20k deposit, and all prospective residents must attend a weekend course.  Planning meetings were 1 weekend/month for three years.  You didn’t have to attend meetings, but decisions would be made for you if you skip. They decided on 5 sizes of unit, from small 1 bed to 2bed+den, average price 374k. 

Senior cohousing how-to guide: 

This is a PDF from the Canadian Senior Cohousing Society, prepared by two members of the Harbourside project in BC.

“What if we could live in smaller footprints but expand into large, shared common areas to enjoy food, music, activities, and guests? And for those in the second half of life, what if we could create an alternative to institutional facilities for aging well, an alternative we would like to live in now?”

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Senior cohousing handbook excerpts:

Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each attached or single family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry, and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, open space, and gardens. Neighbors also share resources like tools and lawnmowers.

Common dinner in a senior cohousing community is prepared in turn, usually by one cook and one assistant. However, its significance goes far beyond sharing food and effort. Such dinners are the heart of cohousing, for they are the catalyst for many other social activities. Breaking bread together is a timeless community building experience. Just as important, it is over dinner that you might decide to go bird watching together on Saturday, or to take a walk after eating.

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Complete guide to senior cohousing:

This is a lengthy article from the Canadian Seniors Cohousing Society and the Community Social Planning Council that covers all the aspects of cohousing as an alternative for seniors and looks at some examples such as Wolf Willow in Saskatchewan, Elder Spirit in Virginia and Casa Velasco in California

Once a senior finds themselves slipping towards ever increasing levels of care it is very difficult for them to find their way back. Senior Cohousing and co-care aim to substantially slow this process down mostly through prevention. If Aging at Home can be integrated and supported by the principles of cohousing and co-care (the two outer circles combined, in Figure 1, p. 14) then a senior is less likely to become isolated and more able to put off the day they will need to move into an institution. They will also be less likely to need access to short term acute services.

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Globe and Mail articles:

Divorced with no children, Kilkenny shared her home in Asheville, N.C., with a parade of middle-aged housemates for four years. She kept a mother-in-law suite with its own kitchen, while her Golden Girls shared the rest of the house. Many were single women between 54 and 72, like herself, although a married couple and a single guy passed through, too.

For Kilkenny, 66, living with this “chosen family” was heartening. “I could sit at the dinner table with somebody and say, ‘How was your day?’ Or soup would magically appear in my fridge because somebody made too much,” she says. “Little blessings that add up.”

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An Ontario cohousing project:

This is an interesting look at a cohousing and sustainable farming project called Whole Village in Caledon, which tried to get zoning for a multi-family development and failed. They switched to a large single building of 15,000 square feet with 11 bedroom/kitchen units and a communal living area, and after being refused by the county won a court case allowing them to build.

“Whole Village members have chosen a Registered Cooperative as the ownership model for their cohousing. Many cohousing projects are condominium or strata types. This was not an option for Greenhaven, partly due to zoning restrictions which do not permit multi-family dwellings on agricultural land, but also because the members wished to have much more control over who lives in the building than would be legal under a condominium structure. They opted instead to incorporate as a cooperative.”

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A look at co-ownership:

The City of Toronto prohibits the conversion of apartment buildings to condos in order to protect the number of affordable and mid-range rental units in the city. Many developers have got around the issue by converting rental buildings to co-ownership. Legally, there’s a difference but owners wouldn’t see any difference in the day-to-day operation which is primarily the same as a condo.  The board of directors, building management, common expenses, maintenance fees, yearly financial audits, individual mortgages and the right to sell, lease or mortgage units without consent of other residents, are the same. One slight difference is that condominium owners receive individual tax bills. Co-owners pay their share of property taxes as part of their monthly maintenance fees. (More)