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Cohousing: a new kind of roommate comes to Cowichan

The common house patio at Nanaimo’s Pacific Gardens cohousing complex. - Pacific Gardens
The common house patio at Nanaimo’s Pacific Gardens cohousing complex.
— image credit: Pacific Gardens

Cowichan’s very first cohousing community is in the works.

If you don’t know what that is, you may want to check out a meeting Sunday in Duncan.

“We are a small group of local residents who are starting an inter-generational cohousing project here in the Cowichan Valley,” states Cohousing Cowichan Initiatives website. “We envision a diverse group of families and individuals living in moderately-priced housing units in a semi-rural setting.”

The group is looking for members.

Its vision includes creating buildings “that favour quality of design and materials over quantity of space, are heated and cooled with renewable energy, and include outdoor social spaces.

“We will compost, recycle, and re-use to minimize waste. The community will encourage and support alternative modes of transportation (walking, cycling, car-sharing, electric cars, transit) to minimize carbon output,” the website states.

Sunday’s free event, taking place from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in the Mesachie Room at the Islands Savings Centre, will feature guest speakers from both the Pacific Gardens (Nanaimo) and Creekside Commons (Courtenay) cohousing communities.

“We anticipate having private homes along with shared facilities, such as space for community gatherings and weekly meals, guests’ rooms, office space, and work-spaces,” the website reads. “We envision housing clustered in one area of the property leaving ample green space which may include a community garden and options for small scale organic farming.

“We value diversity, inclusion, transparency, and sustainability. We support development of skills in communication, consensus building, and conflict resolution as ways to build the foundation for healthy community living. We recognize that financial, social, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of community living all need to be considered and balanced in our decision making.”

Nanaimo’s Pacific Gardens, a 25-unit apartment style project, was constructed in 2009 on a 4.37 acre parcel of land in the University Village area of Nanaimo.

Its common house boasts a large kitchen and adjacent dining/activity hall with a children’s play area as well as other activity-based spaces such as a crafts room, music/meditation room, and conversation lounge. There are also an office, elevator, woodworking shop, laundry, office, guest rooms, and storage rooms.

“Founding members of this community agreed to make this a ‘green’ project by adhering closely to LEED Guidelines to make the construction, occupation, and maintenance of this property as ecologically respectful as possible,” states the website.

A common misconception about cohousing is its the same as co-op housing.

“The ‘co’ in cohousing refers to ‘collaborative’,” states Pacific Gardens website. “The basic concept is one of reducing one’s privately owned space and amenities in favor of increased access to shared ones. A full 28% of our building square footage is common space, while the average condo development allots only 6%.

“A cohousing development is designed to foster relationships amongst its residents, whereas co-op housing is a type of ownership and tenancy, often linked to government sponsored affordability programs.

For more information about Cowichan's cohousing group in the works, contact event organizer Reed Early at 250-748-0550 or visit the website here.

Sunday's event also features refreshments and finger food.

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