- WHAT IS COHOUSING?
Cohousing neighbourhoods combine the privacy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living. Cohousing creates the sense of a “village” where neighbours know and support each other, while maintaining options for private space. The way cohousing is developed is also different from other housing: future residents participate in the planning, design, and development of the community so that it directly meets their needs. We encourage you to read more about these 6 defining characteristics of cohousing:
- Participatory development process
- Deliberate community-oriented design
- Complete private homes + extensive common amenities
- Resident self-management
- Non-hierarchical structure and decision-making
- Separate income sources
- IN A NUTSHELL, WHAT IS BRIDGEWATER COHOUSING?
Our group is made up of future Bridgewater Cohousing homeowners. We are working together to plan our own neighbourhood of 25-30 homes. Members actively work alongside professionals to design and develop these homes. The homes will be modest in size, but creatively-designed, highly energy efficient, and bright. They will also have extensive common facilities. The community will be built in the town of Bridgewater, within walking distance of the amenities and green spaces we need to live a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle. We will be a multi-age community of caring neighbours who make decisions maintain our community together.
- WILL I OWN MY OWN HOME?
Yes. Once construction is complete, the neighbourhood will be incorporated under the ‘condominium’ legal structure. Individual member households will each own one of the homes, as well as a share of the common facilities. Most cohousing communities in North America have chosen this ownership structure for financing convenience.
- IS THIS THE SAME AS CO-OP HOUSING?
No. See the “Housing Comparison” chart below for details.
- WHAT IS IT GOING TO COST?
Cohousing is not government-subsidized in Canada. Member households are people who can afford to buy or build their own homes, and the costs are approximately current market rate (roughly in the $200K-$300K range for newer, well-constructed homes in Bridgewater). With the help of the professional team, the members of the group will agree on the size, quality, and cost of the homes.
- HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
We hope to move into our new homes in 2020-2021. See the “Anticipated Development Timeline” chart below for details.
- WHAT KINDS OF PEOPLE LIVE IN COHOUSING?
Those drawn to cohousing tend to be people who have thought about creating community long before they heard the term cohousing. They come from diverse backgrounds, family types and beliefs, and may be introverts or extroverts. What they have in common is a desire to take an active part in their community and a belief that connecting with their neighbours will enhance their quality of life, enable them to share resources, and have more fun.
- WILL CHILDREN BE WELCOME?
Yes! We welcome people of all ages. We will select a site that is close to schools, public transit, as well as the stores and services we need to support us at various life stages.
- WILL PETS BE WELCOME?
We have not yet set guidelines regarding pets, but well-behaved pets are important to many of us.
- WOULD I HAVE PRIVACY?
Yes! Our members value privacy as well as social contact. It is essential to us that we have our own homes and private spaces. There can actually be increased privacy in cohousing because the common areas provide meeting places, guest spaces, rooms for socializing, etc., allowing individual homes to be places of privacy and retreat.
- WHAT IS THE COMMON HOUSE?
All the private homes will be completely self-contained. For example, each will have a full kitchen. However, we will also share extensive common facilities that are designed for daily use. Cohousing “common houses” are where many of these facilities are located in one convenient place. They typically include a large kitchen and dining area for community meals, a lounge, guestrooms, a playroom, a workshop, and office space. Our members will decide what is to be included. The common house is the heart of the community – it is a place for residents to share food and have meetings, celebrations, musical events, movies, yoga practice, classes, and other activities that support the interests of community members.
- WILL MEMBERS SHARE MEALS TOGETHER?
Sharing meals is an important part of all cohousing communities. They typically share anywhere from a few meals per month to as many as 7 nights per week! It depends entirely on the wishes of the residents, and participation is up to each individual – social activities are always optional.
- WHAT IS THE LEGAL STRUCTURE DURING DEVELOPMENT?
The “developer” is the cohousing group itself, and the money to make the development happen comes from its member households. The simplest and most common legal structure during the development phase is a standard company. This structure limits member liability, allows flexibility, and is most easily recognized by lending institutions. The company can also take out a construction loan. Member households each own an equity share in the company. There is never any profit to the company – homes are sold to the members at cost, and the company is dissolved after construction is complete.
- HOW DO I BECOME A MEMBER?
The first step is to attend one of our info sessions. You may then attend members’ meetings as a guest. You will learn about the different levels of membership, and the responsibilities and privileges of each level. Through membership, individuals gain knowledge of the social and decision-making processes, as well as the legal, financial and organizational aspects of the project. See the “Membership Levels” chart below details.
- HOW ARE MEMBERS SELECTED?
When prospective residents have gone through orientation (see #14), becoming a member is largely a self-selection process. All members must meet the financial requirements (ability to purchase a home in the community) and be willing and able to take on the responsibilities and obligations of membership. The three-month Associate Membership provides the opportunity for you to get to know the other members and decide whether this lifestyle appeals to you.
- DO I HAVE TO LIKE EVERYONE?
As in any community, residents will be naturally closer to some than others. However, our members all expect and deserve to be treated with respect, which fosters a healthy community. In addition to designing the physical structures, residents will design the social structures that enable respectful relationships.
- CAN I EXPECT FREE CHILD CARE, ELDER CARE, OR HELP IF I GET SICK?
As among any group of friends and neighbours, people help each other in informal ways. Cohousing is envisioned as a community in which people are friendly and supportive to each other – especially in times of need. However, this support is always voluntary, and usually arranged between individuals.
- HOW MUCH MEETING TIME IS INVOLVED?
In the initial group formation phase, members’ meetings will be approximately twice a month. During the development phase, these meetings may become longer, but less frequent. In addition to the general meetings, members will join committees to work on specific parts of the project, such as design, financing, and marketing. To participate fully in the decisions can involve a good deal of time. After move-in, meetings of the whole community tend to be less frequent, and new committees are set up to manage the needs of the community.
- IS MEETING ATTENDANCE MANDATORY?
Relationships are strengthened through discussion at meetings, by working together on committees, and by socializing at community events. An effective and cohesive community is best forged by working and making decisions together. Attendance at meetings is not mandatory. However, you are expected to abide by the decisions made by the group in your absence.
- WHAT IS THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS?
Decision making and responsibilities are shared by all members. Decisions are made using consensus. This puts everyone on an equal footing, avoids power struggles or political efforts to gain a majority, encourages everyone to participate by communicating openly, and provides an opportunity for people to see different points of view. It is a powerful tool for building and sustaining community. Members receive training and ongoing support in using the consensus decision making model. This model has been evolving for many decades and has been used in the creation of hundreds of successful communities.
- WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND AND WANT TO LEAVE DURING THE DEVELOPMENT PHASE?
Associate Members have made no major commitment and can easily leave the group at or before the end of the three-month period; however, the $150 fee is non-refundable. Equity members, however, have made a commitment to be a part of the community, and the group depends on this commitment for the success of the development. We encourage associate members to take some time to reflect on their decision before making the commitment to become an equity member because the required minimum investment from equity members is also non-refundable.
- HOW WILL THE CHOICE OF HOMES BE PRIORITIZED?
When the final design of Bridgewater Cohousing is complete and the homes are ready for construction, the home pricing structure will be determined based on home size and desirability. Then members will choose their home, with the order of seniority determined by the date the member became an equity member.
- WHAT WILL BE EXPECTED OF ME AFTER THE DEVELOPMENT IS COMPLETE?
After move-in, members will work together to organize maintenance and ongoing duties. There will be a monthly maintenance fee that each owner will be expected to pay, and there will continue to be regular meetings concerning the running of the community and further decision-making.
- CAN I SELL MY HOME AFTER COMPLETION?
Just like any other home, members who want to sell their home need to find a buyer for it. Because Bridgewater Cohousing will be legally incorporated as a condominium, our homes can be bought and sold on the open market.
- CAN I RENT MY HOME AFTER COMPLETION?
We have not yet established guidelines regarding rentals, but having the option to rent our homes is important to many of us.
- CAN I VISIT AN EXISTING COHOUSING?
Thirteen completed cohousing communities currently exist in Canada. Check the Canadian Cohousing Network to contact individual communities and arrange for a tour. Some of the cohousings that are geographically closest to Nova Scotia are in the north-eastern USA (to find these communities, visit the Cohousing.org).
- WHERE DID COHOUSING GET STARTED?
The concept emerged in Denmark about 50 years ago. It was introduced to North America in 1988 by architects Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant with the publication of their book Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. Since then, well over 150 cohousing communities have been completed in North America. There are now 13 in Canada, and there are many more in various stages of development. The concept is quickly spreading throughout the world.
- WHAT COHOUSING RESOURCES EXIST?
Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett’s book Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities is an excellent resource and strongly recommended to all prospective members. The Cohousing Handbook by Chris & Kelly ScottHanson is another good resource. We have a few copies of these book available to loan. There are more and more online resources available, including the Canadian Cohousing Network, Cohousing.org, and The Cohousing Company – to name just a few.
- WHY BRIDGEWATER?
Bridgewater is a progressive town, and is much more than meets the eye. The Town of Bridgewater has developed a reputation for innovation in sustainability, gaining national exposure for its efforts. It has also been recognized as the best community in Atlantic Canada for young families. It is home to many excellent amenities and the surrounding countryside has abundant natural beauty and cultural delights.
Housing Comparison: Cohousing VS other Collective Housing Types
|Housing Type||Cohousing||Standard Condominium||Co-op Housing||Affordable Housing|
|Ownership||Typically condominium||Condominium||Cooperative||Government / non-profit / private|
|Purpose of development||Create quality community-oriented housing||Generate profit for developer||Create affordable housing||Create affordable housing|
|Investment dollars||Typically financed by future residents||Developer + residents||Frequently government funded or subsidized||Frequently government funded or subsidized|
|Shared space vs. private space||Both||Very little shared||Varies||Varies|
Anticipated Development Timeline
|Phase||Major Activities||What it means to join as a member during this phase|
|2018||-Vision & concept complete
-Retain professional team
-Set up development company
-Member recruitment begins
-Member orientation & education
-Conditional land purchase
|-Greatest participation in design
-Highest on priority list to choose your preferred home
-Early equity investments generate greatest discount on home cost
|2019||-Land purchase completed
-Design cohousing development
-Secure construction financing
-Ongoing member orientation & education
|-Some participation in design
-Next in line to choose preferred home
-Mid-process equity investments generate some discount on home cost
|2020 – 2021||-Construction
-Final home sales
-Transition to condominium corporation, dissolution of development company
-Ongoing member orientation & education
|-Very limited participation in design
-Very limited choice in preferred homes
-No discount on home cost
Regardless of what stage member households join the process, decision making is always by consensus (non-hierarchical). In other words, all members have equal say in whatever decisions are being made at any given time, both during project development and construction, and after move-in.
However, the process will require that decisions made previously will not be reconsidered based only a newer member’s preference, and must be substantiated by a reasonable concern that affects the community a whole.
|Guest||-Fee: none||-May attend social events
-May attend limited number of members’ meetings by invitation, after attending 1 info session
-May not participate in making decisions
Starting November 2018
|-Fee: $150 for 3 months. Non-renewable except in extenuating circumstances||-May attend social events and members’ meetings
-May participate in some decision-making processes
-May join committees
Starting January 2019
|-Fee: Starts at $1000. Will increase over time. With each increase, all Members will need to pay the balance of the new fee to maintain their membership
-Additional requirement: participate actively in development process
|-May attend all meetings, join all committees, and participate in all decision-making processes
-May access members-only website
-May purchase home, and receive home selection seniority
One membership per household, regardless of the number of members in the household or the household income. Members may make additional equity investments, which will result in a further discount on their final home price. All fees are non-refundable.