Citizen Action Monitor

Introduction to the Waterloo Region Cohousing Ecovillage — for folks seeking sustainable community living

The plan is to build 30 homes combining the advantage of privacy and shared common facilities.

No 1862 Posted by fw, January 3, 2017

The Waterloo, Ontario cohousing project is now seeking individuals and households who would be interested in becoming members and assisting in the ongoing growth and development of their community. If you are interested in creating a life together, contact the organization at waterlooregioncohousing@gmail.com.

To be clear, although I have a personal interest in cohousing as an alternative to independent living in an urban center, I am not a member of the Waterloo Region Cohousing Project (WRCP) or affiliated with it in any other way.

The following post is intended to serve as a general introduction to cohousing. The content, presented below in five parts, was drawn from the Waterloo Cohousing website, except for Part 4 – 2016 Year in Review — which was received as an email.

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Waterloo Region Cohousing Ecovillage Website accessed January 3, 2017

Part 1/ Hello & Welcome to the Waterloo Region Cohousing Ecovillage

We are creating a sustainable cohousing ecovillage community in the Waterloo Region in Ontario, Canada. Our plan is to build 30 homes combining the advantage of privacy and shared common facilities. We manage ourselves through consensus decision making. Our vision is to create relationships that are an extension of our families. We are open to an ever-widening range of diverse members. We share resources, meals, responsibilities, experiences, celebrations.  In short we share our lives together.  We are creating a lifestyle that is sustainable for generations, and adaptable and responsive to environmental changes.

We are now seeking individuals and households who would be interested in becoming members and assisting in the ongoing growth and development of our community.

If you are interested in creating a life together, please email waterlooregioncohousing@gmail.com.

Part 2/ What is Cohousing?

“A cohousing community is a type of intentional community composed of private homes supplemented by shared facilities.  The community is planned, owned and managed by the residents – who also share activities which my include cooking, dining, child care, gardening and governance of the community.  Common facilities may include a kitchen, dining room, laundry, child care facilities, offices, internet access, guest rooms, and recreational features.  Cohousing facilitates interaction among neighbours for social practical benefits, economic and environmental benefits.”

Cohousing Characteristics

  • Participatory Process – residents participate in regular meetings for planning, design and development of the community so it directly corresponds to the dynamics and needs of the people involved.  All decisions are based on consensus.
  • Neighbourhood Design – the neighbourhood is designed to encourage community interactions in daily living including tightly clustered housing around a common house or pathway, parking on the periphery, usable common spaces between and around dwellings.
  • Private homes – community members have self-contained units with kitchens, bedrooms, living spaces allowing for privacy.  Homes are often smaller footprint because of the shared common facilities
  • Shared Common Facilities, Spaces and Amenities – these are an integral part of the community.  These facilities include a Common House for shared meals, meetings, gatherings, celebrations, children’s play room, guest room, laundry facilities and much more… facilities can also be a workshop, a pond, a chicken coop, recycling shed, composting, bicycle storage and more…

Part 3/ Five reasons to consider joining a co-housing community (US Source)

Just as a home is more than its walls and windows, cohousing homes are more than standard condos. To the people who create, join and live cohousing communities, they join an active and involved community of neighbors who know and care about each other and together live more consciously of one another and the earth. Cohousing has grown over the past 25 years to over 160 communities nationwide and the communities range from urban, suburban, or rural; new construction or repurposed; senior-specific or intergenerational. Successful communities generally share 5 key characteristics that may tempt you to consider a cohousing community for your next move.

1/ Sustainability focus

A core value of cohousing is environmental sustainability. This is reflected in preserved open space, in utilizing green building materials and techniques, minimizing the intrusion of cars, and the prevalence of community renewable energy systems. The sense of community created in these neighborhoods is the secret ingredient of sustainability, enabling people to have a collective impact, being good stewards together with their neighbors. Such a lively neighborhood means residents can socialize close to home, and parents can reduce the endless back-and-forth of shuttling their kids to playdates.

2/ Faces not fenders

Cohousing communities are recognized by certain design features, layered over a strong social fabric. A big benefit of cohousing stems from the sharing culture bolstered by generous common amenities. Cohousing features a common house (the heart of the community, with a large kitchen, dining area, guest rooms and more), and perhaps a shared garden, workshop, yoga room, pool or kids room. Communities are generally 20-40 homes, designed and self-managed by residents. The result is people-focused, with cars kept on the periphery and buildings grouped to leave green space for all to enjoy.

3/ Owner-developers

Financing is undertaken by the future residents, who act as “owner-developers” and provide the capital to fund the design costs and property purchase. Yet there’s nothing to fear when it comes to acquiring loans; in fact, Fannie Mae has language in its FAQ’s specifying that cohousing homes qualify for loans just as any other condominium development would. The project is built by means of a bank construction loan, paid off as individual residents obtain mortgages. Since residents buy-in to their neighborhood early on, turnover tends to be low.

4/ True neighborliness

Ever been ready to bake a cake and realized you’re one stick of butter short, meaning a 20-minute drive to the store? In cohousing, your neighbor will probably have both butter and some baking advice. Cohousing is carefully designed to create a socially rich and interconnected community, a true “neighborhood” in the old-fashioned sense of the word. However, residents do not have a shared economy or a common set of beliefs. Individual homes have all the traditional amenities including private kitchens, yet most communities are proud to offer resident-cooked dinner rotations in the common house several times a week.

5/ Safe and secure

“Eyes on the Street” are the best security system you can have. Living in a community where everyone is a familiar face provides an extra layer of safety. Children can run freely and knock on their playmates’ doors, gaining a unique level of independence and trust with neighbors. Even in large cities, cohousing experiences little crime and offers safe and supportive living.

Cheers to more sustainable, socially-thriving communities for all!

Part 4/ Waterloo Region Cohousing Ecovillage — 2016 Year in Review

It’s been an amazing year! It’s been a year to celebrate the birth of Cohousing in Waterloo Region, a year filled with progress. Look how much we’ve done…

February:
More than 100 people attended the Inaugural Meeting at the Kitchener Public Library for our presentation and discussion.

March, April, May and June:
Monthly general meetings continued to attract scores of interested participants. A core group established a steering committee, which met separately each month to move the project forward. In the larger group meetings, we focused on getting to know each other, started looking for land and learned about the processes involved. Other committees were formed and met to discuss membership, land search, finance, social and legal matters.

Members of the steering committee also met with city planners in Kitchener, North Dumfries, Cambridge, Woolwich and Guelph to tell them about our group and discuss the concept of Cohousing. A few of us attended Dynamic Governance (Sociocracy) workshops.

During this period, we also held social events including: a showing of the film, Within Reach at the Princess Cinema; a Trivia Night at The Boathouse; a meeting-up at the Jazz Festival; another film showing, The Minimalist; and some fun gatherings at the Heuther [Waterloo hotel, bar, dining].

waterloo

July: Twelve WRCP-ers attended the EcoVillage Experience in Ithaca, where we saw Cohousing in action. We socialized with residents, shopped and cooked together, and learned about Dynamic Governance (Sociocracy) and Non-Violent Communication.

August: Another group of WRCP-ers took a road trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we visited three linked Cohousing communities.  We had a chance to get to know each other better on the car ride, while shopping, cooking and eating together.

September: We have engaged a number of consultants to give us guidance on various topics. They include: Gary Morrison of Livewell Cohousing; Liz Walker, Elan Shapiro, Rod Lambert and Julia Morgan of EcoVillage at Ithaca; and John Schinner from the Sociocracy Consulting Group.

December: Our first annual Holiday Party! We enjoyed some wonderful yummy treats, had great conversations and built a Common House and small village together. (Granted, the buildings were gingerbread, but it’s a start!)

Things to celebrate:  

  • We’re coming together!
  • We have a core group meeting regularly (at last count I think we have at least 14 households).
  • We’ve reached out to those who haven’t been attending regularly, many of whom have expressed a continuing interest.
  • We are learning a common language (no more committees—we form sociocratic circles now) and culture.
  • We’ve created a membership structure and collected membership fees for three months.
  • We have a bank account at Libro Credit Union.
  • We’ve created a Finance, Communication and IT Circle, as well as Community Life and Social circles… more circles are coming!
  • We’re almost a year old!

What a great beginning!  We have created a community and soon we’ll be putting shovels in the ground!

Looking forward to seeing you in the New Year.  Our next meeting is planned for January 8th from 2pm to 5pm. Please note out new meeting location is Libro Credit Union located at 420 Erb Street, Waterloo.

In Community!

waterloo-meeting

Part 5/ Two Related Videos

Building Community with Cohousing 15-minutes — Uploaded on Apr 18, 2011Building Community with Cohousing is an entertaining, informative, heart-warming and inspiring look the Cohousing movement in Canada. In it filmmakers Dan Gagnon and Regan Payne interview cohousing residents from four completed communities in southwestern British Columbia Canada: Windsong. Provides a general overview of the concept and is intended as an educational tool for the general public, developers, planners and people interested in joining a completed community or forming a new one. It was produced by the Canadian Cohousing Network funded by the membership of cohousing communities in Canada.

Waterloo Region Cohousing Inaugural Meeting 52 minutes — Published on Feb 11, 2016 — During this meeting you will learn about cohousing, you will hear real-life experiences from Wendy Pearle and Alan Parrish who have lived in Ithaca Ecovillage, and most excitingly the opportunity of cohousing here in Waterloo Region.

FAIR USE NOTICE – For details click here

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