Some people call cohousing neighbourhoods 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 1960’s. It describes neighbourhoods that combine the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living.
Residents own their individual homes (the legal structure is strata ownership), 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 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.
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.
The first cohousing community in Canada was Windsong Cohousing Community, built in Langley over twenty years ago. It remains a thriving community. Since that time, over a dozen successful cohousing communities have be established in British Columbia.