What is cohousing and what is the difference between cohousing and a cooperative?

  1. Cohousing is a neighbourhood design that combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living – it encourages a sense of community while maintaining the option for privacy.
  2. In a cooperative the development is owned by a group and the units are rented. In cohousing, you are owners of your individual condo as well as a share of the common spaces.’

Why choose cohousing?

People are social beings. Wherever you are on the extroversion or introversion scale, sooner or later you and your household are going to want to interact with others. Today people live transient lifestyles, they move often and rarely really know their neighbours. Cohousing communities really focus on building and enabling relationships between neighbours.

How did cohousing get started?

The concept emerged in Denmark about 50 years ago. It was introduced to North America by two architects in 1988 with the book Cohousing: a contemporary approach to housing ourselves. Since that time 127 cohousing communities have been completed in North America (9 of which are in Canada, with many more forming). The Senior Cohousing Handbook as inspired projects with a focus on the needs of an aging population, including Wolf Willow Cohousing.

What is the purpose of the Wolf Willow Cohousing group?

To develop a cohousing community for people aged 55 years and older that encourages a sense of community while maintaining the option for privacy, and is within walking/biking distance of most of our needs.

What will the community be like?

With the guidance of experienced professionals, the members work together to design a community that meets our needs and stated priorities. The design can take a variety of forms, depending on site conditions, local zoning, and the desires of the group. The optimum size for seniors cohousing is between 15 and 25 households. Anything smaller puts too much pressure on the individual to participate in community activities. Anything larger does not support a close knit community. The size of the Wolf Willow Cohousing community will be 21 condominium homes with an incredible 4500 sq. ft. of common space and secured parking.

Cohousing groups are environmental leaders and all of the communities completed to date have included leading edge environmental features. Some examples include grey water recycling, solar energy harvesting, highly efficient heating systems, compact design, sustainably harvested wood products, recycled materials, water conservation, and preservation of natural habitat.

What is a Common House?

All residences are completely self-contained and have full kitchens, but also share extensive common facilities that are designed for daily use. The Common House typically includes a kitchen and dining room, lounge, guestrooms, workshop, shared office space, and laundry area. The members will decide what’s to be included. It is the heart of the community where residents can have meetings, celebrations, musical events, movies, yoga practice, share in food preparation or preservation and many other activities.

Do members share meals together?

The common facilities, and particularly the shared meals, are an important aspect of community life both for social and practical reasons however shared activities are always optional. People always have the choice of eating in their own homes. In existing communities, shared meals can be available from a few nights a month, to as many as 7 nights per week. Each home has its own kitchen, so participating in the common meals is optional, but typically about 60% of the residents participate on a regular basis.

What kinds of people live in cohousing?

They tend to be people who have thought about this idea of creating community long before they heard the term cohousing. People who live in cohousing come from a variety of backgrounds, income levels, family types and beliefs. What they do have in common is a desire to have a say in how their neighbourhood will be and a belief that having more connection with their neighbours will enhance
their quality of life.

Would I have privacy?

Yes! Members value privacy as well as social contact, and it is important to have our own homes and private space. There is a common belief that the cohousing arrangement allows for less privacy than conventional housing, however this does not in fact prove to be the case. A unique aspect of cohousing is that the future residents participate in a conscious process of creating a community that will reflect their values. Most people in our culture value privacy, so the design always reflects the desire to provide a balance of privacy and community. The following statement was taken from a CMHC study in 1997 called, “Planning Cohousing”:

While the shared amenities are integral to cohousing, some believe privacy is more respected in cohousing communities than elsewhere. The idea of a 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.”

There can actually be more privacy in cohousing because the common areas provide meeting places, party room, guest space, etc. while the individual dwelling is a place of privacy and retreat.

Will I own my own home?

Yes. Each unit has a condominium title ownership structure under which each household owns its own home as well as a share of common facilities.

How many homes will there be?

There are 21 units at Wolf Willow Cohousing.

How big will the units be?

There will be different units of different sizes and with different bedroom counts, but none of them will be palatial. First generation cohousing communities built relatively large individual units, but succeeding generations have tended towards smaller units and more dedicated common space – that’s where people spend a lot of time, and they want to have the space in which to do it!

What if I don't like someone?

You don’t have to be best friends with everybody. In a group of several dozen households you won’t have to be on top of anybody all the time. Or as in any healthy community, people will be tolerant and respectful toward others. Since cohousing communities usually attract members through a process of networking, it is likely that a high degree of friendship will exist among members. Some people, of course, are very private individuals and may feel comfortable with only a few, whereas others will form friendships with everyone in the community. As in other areas of life, individuals will create their own experience.

What will it cost?

As in any building project, prices will vary depending on the prices of land, materials, labour and on the scale of the project. Cohousing units are typically slightly more expensive than a market unit of a comparable size, members opt for quality of life rather than quantity of private space. Cohousing is not currently a subsidized housing option. Our homes range in price from $276,000 to $457,000.

What does community living really entail? How much togetherness would that involve?

Since you own your own condo you are free to take part in as many or as little community gatherings as you choose. As a condo owner you are expected to share in the duties of decision making, attendance at meetings when possible, and contributing to administration and/or maintenance and upkeep of the building and grounds.

Is this a safe community for lesbian women and gay men?

Yes, the community of Wolf Willow Cohousing has developed to be inclusive of all, without judgement.

Is there an age limit?

This cohousing project has developed as senior focused, the first in Canada. But we have chosen to let owners self-select and trust to this process. Families with children, or those interested in multi-generational developments will be unlikely to prefer our senior community. We will be very happy to welcome our children and grandchildren for visits.

Are there condo fees? Are they the same for everyone? How are they set?

Condo fees are set by the cohousing group (ourselves) with representatives from each condo being on the board making decisions. They will vary according to the size of the unit.

How do you make decisions?

Decisions are made using the consensus model and are a result of open and inclusive discussions.

Who is the developer?

We as an owner group are the developers. Once the project is completed and we have all become owners of our units, the company will be dissolved and our condo association will be born. This association will be registered with the Saskatchewan Condo Association and all by-laws will fall within those parameters with some additions to fit our situation.

Is the building eco-friendly?

The building is energy efficient with R40 wall and R60 ceilings. All materials have been selected with the environment in mind. Care has been taken to ensure materials are not hazardous in any way.

What does an associate membership entitle you to?

With an associate membership, you are encouraged to attend monthly meetings and get fully involved in getting to know the membership and the mode of operation. You have full access to the private web site, are given a buddy to help you get integrated into the community and answer all your questions. You are also encouraged to attend all social events.

When do I have to make a choice about becoming an owner?

There is no time limit to your associate membership so you can take as long as you feel is best for you before buying a condo. You actually would now be making a down payment and selecting your unit with a final closing of your condo when it is ready. Since the remaining units have been listed and are now being sold you should be aware that you do not have priority of choice as an ongoing associate member.