Vancouver Mulling First Co-Housing Complex

A proposed co-housing project that would use shared facilities to lower costs and promote neighbourly socialization is heading to Vancouver city council Tuesday.

The planned 31-unit complex would feature a communal dining area, kitchen, gathering space, laundry room, music room, guest suite, exercise studio, roof-top deck, indoor play area, a teenagers’ lounge and a bicycle repair room.

Unlike co-operative buildings, which are legal entities that own real estate, co-housing is a privately owned lifestyle choice. The bulk of the proposed units would be available for purchase while at least two would be designated rentals.

Each would include its own independent kitchen space and bathroom.

Brenda Birch, who helped plan the project, said the communal areas could make living in the notoriously-unaffordable city a lot less pricey.

“You’ve got an extensive common facility that’s designed for people to use on a regular basis, you don’t have to buy as big a home,” Birch said.

Cohousing is just the latest in a line of creative real estate ideas to tackle Vancouver’s affordability problem, following the introduction of laneway homes and the so-called “micro-lofts” in the Downtown Eastside.

But before the project can move forward, the city must approve the Cedar Cottage Cohousing Company’s bid to rezone the proposed project site, located along three plots on 33rd Ave. between Argyle and Commercial streets.

Councillor Kerry Jang said he’s open to the idea of cohousing, which has already been tested in other parts of the world.

“The concept is very popular in Europe because of this affordability quotient, and also because it allows some communal living so families will help raise other people’s kids.”

It’s also seen some success in Burnaby, where families and singles already share facilities at the 22-unit Cranberry Commons townhouse complex.

Residents Ian Mothersill said his cohousing situation is akin to living in “a small village.”

“We share, you know, kitchen stuff, tools, lawnmowers, things like that. That’s part of that whole cooperative community approach.”

Cohousing projects are also being built or proposed in Victoria, Bowen Island, Nelson, Nanaimo and North Vancouver.

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