Cohousing has been around for a number of years, and got its start in Denmark, where small communities of like-minded people decided that living together and sharing their lives with others was more enjoyable than living alone. If you’re interested in a personal description of what that might be like, we have a whole page full of notes from visits that some members of our group have made to almost a dozen different cohousing communities across North America. There’s also a list of cohousing projects below with links and descriptions.
For more info, here is a description of cohousing from the Canadian Cohousing Network site, and you can find lots more useful info about the concept on our Resources page:
Some people call cohousing neighborhoods a return to the best of small-town communities. Others say they are like a traditional village or the close-knit neighbourhood where they grew up, while futurists call them an altogether new response to social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Each holds a piece of the truth. Cohousing is a concept that came to North America in 1988 from Denmark where it emerged in the early 1960’s. It describes neighbourhoods that combine the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living.
Residents usually own their individual homes, which are clustered around a “common house” with shared amenities. These amenities may include a kitchen and dining room, children’s playroom, workshops, guest rooms, home office support, arts and crafts area, laundry and more. Each home is self-sufficient with a complete kitchen, but resident-cooked dinners are often available at the common house for those who wish to participate. In some communities participants will join a cooking team once or twice a month – then sit and enjoy meals cooked by fellow residents the remaining evenings of that month.
Cohousing residents participate in the planning, design, ongoing management and maintenance of their community, meeting frequently to address each of these processes. Cohousing neighbourhoods tend to offer environmentally sensitive design with a pedestrian orientation. They typically range from 10-35 households emphasizing a multi-generational mix singles, couples, families with children, and elders.
In North America approximately 160 cohousing communities have been completed since 1991 and there are currently more than 100 new communities in various stages of development. The level of social interaction and shared resources varies among communities. A cohousing development seems limited only by the imagination, desire and resources of the group of people who are actively creating their own neighbourhood. Cohousing groups are based in democratic principles that espouse no ideology other than the desire for a more practical and social home environment.
Cohousing provides personal privacy combined with the benefits of living in a community where people know and interact with their neighbours. It’s about living in a way that’s responsive to a world that has changed dramatically in the last fifty years-a world in which the home life has changed, women are integral in the labour force, resource limitations and environmental concerns are on the rise, and many people feel over extended. Cohousing offers hope in our often dissociated society. Through cohousing, we can build a better place to live, a place where we know our neighbours, a place where we can enjoy a rich sense of community and contribute to a more sustainable world.
A list of Canadian cohousing communities
(for US communities, please see this list)
- Whole Village: An eco-village cohousing complex near Caledon, Ontario that was built in 2006 and consists of a large building with a common living room and kitchen and 11 apartments attached to it, each with a separate entrance. The community has two 100-acre lots and runs a working farm as well as a large market garden. (Visit report here)
- Terra Firma: This cohousing community is located in Ottawa, Ontario and consists of 12 families living in the heart of the city, in a complex they created by taking two three-unit row houses from the 1920s and adding a central common house in between that joins the two together.
- Belterra: This community is located on Bowen Island in British Columbia, and consists of 30 townhouse suites with a mix of older and younger residents, along with a 3,700-square-foot common house. The community was completed in 2014.
- Cranberry Commons: This community is near Burnaby, British Columbia and was completed in 2001. It is made up of a mix of older and younger residents and consists of 22 apartments in a 26,000-square-foot purpose-built complex in a fairly urban neighborhood near Vancouver.
- Creekside Commons: Located near Courtenay in British Columbia, this community consists of 36 two to 5-bedroom duplexes clustered in three neigborhoods arranged around a 3,500-square-foot common house.
- Harbourside: This community is located near Sooke in British Columbia on two acres of land and consists of 31 homes and a 3,900-square-foot common house.
- Heddlestone Village: Located near the town of Nelson in British Columbia, this multi-generational community has 24 homes in 12 duplexes, plus a 5,000-square-foot common house and 24 acres of adjacent outdoor space.
- Pacific Gardens: Located near Nanaimo in British Columbia, this community is made up of 25 apartments with an attached 8,000-square-foot common house, on 4.5 acres of former farmland. The apartments are all joined by an indoor atrium walkway with a Plexiglas roof.
- Quayside: This cohousing community is located in North Vancouver in British Columbia and consists of 19 homes and a 2,500-square-foot common house. It was completed in 1998. There’s also a commercial space with a corner store, and two of the units were sold at below market level prices and must remain that way.
- Roberts Creek: Located in British Columbia, this community is made up of 31 homes and a 2,800-square-foot common house on 20 acres of land in a fairly rural area. It was completed in 2004.
- Vancouver Cohousing: This community is located in the city of Vancouver in British Columbia and opened in 2016. It consists of 31 apartment or condo-style units in a traditional city neighorhood, as well as a 6,200-square-foot common house.
- Windsong: Located near Langley in British Columbia, this community consists of 34 townhouse units on a 6-acre plot of land with another 4 acres of green space, and a 5,000-square-foot common house. It was completed in 1996.
- Prairie Sky: This multi-generational community in Calgary, Alberta is made up of 18 townhouses and apartments with a 3,200-square-foot common house and was built in 2003.
- Radiance: This community in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is made up of 8 townhouses and a 1,200-square-foot common house with a kitchen and a guest room. It was completed in 2018.
- Wolf Willow: Located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, this community consists of 21 condo-style units and a 4,500-square-foot common house. It was completed in 2012.