BARBARA VAN SICKLE
Special to The Morning Star
This two-part series focuses on the concept of co-housing and its benefits.
My husband and I are hoping to establish a cohousing community in Vernon.
We have attended a co-housing conference in Colorado and have visited 11 co-housing communities both in Colorado and B.C. We recently attended a Community Information Lab (conference) in Kamloops which focused on the three aspects of sustainability – environmental, economic and social, which includes health and social interactions. Many of the concerns/issues raised at this conference can be addressed through co-housing. So what is co-housing?
Our fast-paced, modern-day society with stress, increased mobility and longer life span, may produce considerable feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Unfortunately, we lack the support network that people created in the villages of the past to overcome these feelings.
With our advanced forms of communication such as texting, e-mail, and social media, we lose many personal face to face connections. Most people are gregarious and there are many benefits from cooperative action.
Let’s follow the example of the Danes when they created the co-housing concept in the 1960s. Denmark recently ranked first in a world survey of nations measuring happiness amongst its citizens. Canada was 14th.
The concept was brought to North America by the architect Charles Durrett in the 1980s and has spread over the continent, with B.C. leading the way in Canada.
There are more than 23 completed or forming co-housing communities in B.C., with national associations to help them.
The initial stage in the development of a co-housing community involves a diverse group of multigenerational people forming a vision of their ideal neighbourhood.
The process of consensus is used to make decisions based on a group’s vision about the planning and managing of the community. Every opinion is heard and valued.
In addition, more ideas are generated than with the standard form of majority voting. Bonding among the members is achieved in the planning stage, even before a shovel turns the sod to initiate building.
The design of the community facilitates a sense of community and ensures privacy. Privately owned homes supplement shared facilities.
A common house is central to the residential units and contains guest suites, children’s play room, activity/hobby rooms, and a sizeable kitchen/dining area where the community can have voluntary periodic dinners and celebrations.
Outdoors on the commons there is often an organic community garden and recreation area. Pedestrian paths link the buildings and activity areas. Vehicles remain on the periphery, creating an opportunity for more friendly, safer interaction among neighbours.
Members try to live as green and as sustainably as possible.
This is reflected in the building design and choice of materials. Lifestyle practices include recycling, composting and conservation of water. Some communities we visited had solar collectors, solar panels, and wastewater treatment facilities.
The focus on sharing space, amenities, skills and time certainly are desirable economical benefits. Also being able to buy produce and services in bulk is a considerable savings.
All in all, co-housing is a sustainable way of living, socially, environmentally and economically.
That is why creating Vernon Village Co-Housing is so appealing.
We are seeking 15 to 35 interested parties (singles, couples, families, from various ages and backgrounds who think that this would be a beneficial lifestyle.)
To learn more, join Barbara and Mel Van Sickle at the Vernon library March 28 at 2:30 p.m. You can also Google, Canadian Cohousing.ca or Cohousing.org.