You may not yet know about cohousing but there are many good reasons to learn more. Cohousing combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living. It is also a way of living that supports social interaction and sustainability.
Legally structured as a condominium, cohousing projects offer not only financial security but also the spirit and intent of a cooperative, allowing members to live in a caring and sharing environment. Styles vary from individual homes in suburban settings clustered around common green spaces to apartments and stacked townhouses in more urban centres.
Currently there are 17 completed cohousing communities in Canada. Three more are under construction, ten are in development and 21 are forming–including one right here in Hamilton. Some communities in the US have been going strong for more than 30 years. Some focus on a distinct demographic–families or seniors, for example–and some are intergenerational, welcoming anyone who can afford to buy their own home.
So there is definitely something to this idea!
The Canadian Cohousing Network notes that seniors who cohouse live at least ten years longer than they might otherwise in traditional senior housing, and they are generally happier and in better health.
The changing dynamics of our lives–living longer, healthier, happier; finding ways to age creatively; enjoying a supportive community in which to raise a family–have made cohousing a more attractive idea than ever.
People living in cohousing talk about it enthusiastically:
“The beauty of cohousing is that you have a private life and a community life, but only as much of each as you want.”
“Fun, cooperative, friendly, challenging, supportive, thrifty, sometimes annoying but I love it!”
“A wonderful way to age in community! It is far better than any other option I’ve explored.”
“I don’t want to be in a place where I can’t make a pan of biscuits if I want to. I can here.”
“It’s not the practical advantages of living in cohousing that are most important to me. It’s the sense of belonging, a real home; I need the community as a safe harbour to come home to after a trying day.”
“Cohousing is not such a radical idea; it’s a better way to live, but it does require a little extra effort to make it happen.”
Although the Hamilton group CoHoHo-CoHousing Hamilton Ontario is just at the forming stage, there are already more than 150 members on Facebook and another 100 who have expressed interest on Hamilton CoHousing Meetup.
The group’s focus is for a Senior Cohousing project in urban Hamilton where members would live in a purpose-built or retrofitted building designed to encourage interaction among friends and fellow residents. Residents would share common amenities such as a big kitchen and dining area, library, fitness center, garden, TV room, and any number of other features chosen by the group.
I am looking forward to living in a walkable neighbourhood, having my own cozy apt, a spot to grow food and flowers, a place to meet and dine and play scrabble or shoot pool. Where would you like to be?
So how do all these good things happen? Everyone agrees there’s a lot to it. We get a large group together, we eat and drink and talk together, hashing out likes, dislikes, locations, priorities, finances, skills, style, size, rules and regs, legalese. We learn a lot about each other. As we talk we explore various processes and forms of decision making–because we’ll be doing a lot of that.
Then some of us decide we want to move forward and look at sites or buildings that can be renovated/retrofitted. Eventually, we find possible ones. We make and remake budgets, we create and build relationships with lawyers, accountants, bankers, builders, developers, cohousing consultants. We form a condo corporation.
So there’s a lot to it and some of it is difficult and scary. But everyone who has gone through the process of creating and moving into a cohousing community has said: “It was really hard work but it was totally worth it”.
The local group meets for coffee and casual conversation twice a month, in Hamilton and Burlington, between 10 a.m. and noon. Our next meeting is on February 9 in the loft at the Brown Dog Cafe at 211 Locke St. South.
On February 23 we meet at the Lakeshore Coffee House, 2007 Lakeshore Rd. just east of Brant. We’re back at the Brown Dog on March 9th.
Please join us on Facebook (CoHoHo-CoHousing Hamilton Ontario) for details of all meetings and lots of other information on cohousing plus posts from other cohousing communities and organizations.
Or find us on Yahoo Meetup (Hamilton Cohousing Meetup).
Reach the group by email at Jocelyn_weatherbe@yahoo.com
To find out more about cohousing in general, check out these online resources: