It’s no secret that Vancouver is a tough place to afford a home. City council has gone so far as to create a special task force on housing affordability to come up with new ways for people with moderate incomes (between $21,500 and $86,500) to buy a home in a city ranked, according to a recent study by Averbach Mortgages, as the world’s second most expensive housing market.
While laneway housing, high-rise condo towers with subsidized social housing units and so-called “thin streets” have made headlines as possible solutions in recent months, some people think there is another alternative.
Local members of the Canadian Cohousing Network are hosting an open house event Nov. 19 at Heritage Hall to attract interest in an entirely different way of keeping up with the neighbours.
A cohousing community is not to be confused with a housing co-op or a commune. Instead, it is a way of living that differs from other domestic set-ups currently available to Vancouverites — one that appeals to people who want to own an apartment but not feel socially isolated in a city with a growing reputation for becoming a resort town for wealthy foreign owners. There are already a handful of existing cohousing communities in the Lower Mainland but none in Vancouver. The concept first began in Denmark in the 1960s.
“In a typical cohousing environment, everybody has their own private unit and in addition there is a common house, which is the area where you would share meals or have a guest bedroom or kids playroom,” explained Britta Jongkind, a former resident of both Windsong, a 34-townhouse cohousing complex in Langley and Eco-Village Yarrow, a 33-unit and 20-acre organic farm outside Chilliwack.
The evening’s keynote speaker is Charles Durrett, an architect who, along with his partner Kathryn McCamant, literally wrote the book on cohousing in 1988 with Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. He has since designed more than 50 communities across North America, including one proposed for a site on 33rd Avenue between Victoria and Knight if city council approves rezoning and development applications.
Vancouver Cohousing is proposing building privately owned, fully equipped homes in a complex of two and three storeys spanning three double-deep lots currently occupied by single-family houses. The main common area would be a clubhouse with a community kitchen/dining room, activity rooms for children and teens, office areas, a music room and rooftop garden, as well as a glass-covered atrium to encourage year-round social engagement. While the units themselves won’t necessarily be any lower than market prices — the starting cost for a two-bedroom, 875-square foot unit, for example, would be around $480,000 — the sense of belonging that comes with it is hard to put a pricetag on, advocates say.
Project spokesperson Darryl Griffith said that the reason behind the fair isn’t to find new members for the complex but instead to introduce people to the idea and offer support to anyone else looking to try it.
“It is an opportunity to not only let more people know about cohousing but we are also going to have different tables set up from all the different groups in the Lower Mainland who are actively searching for more members,” said Griffith. “We have several interested members who have been there since the beginning, and the intent is to build this facility where we can raise our children and others will grow old in.”
Got to cohousingfair.com for more information.