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Focused on cooperation and mutual aid, cohousing projects are designed and built by and for communities: the neighbourhood spirit is created within a building.

Simplicity, cooperation, the sharing of values and assets, connection and social ties, intergeneration, and the prevention of social isolation… Urban cohousing is gaining more and more followers, combining the advantages of private ownership (or renting) and collective amenities. Discover the benefits of this type of housing, which also reflects a sustainable lifestyle.

what is cohousing? 

The cohousing movement was born in Denmark in 1964. Today, this type of housing is firmly established in Europe, as well as in the United States and Canada since the late 1980s. The Canadian Cohousing Network was formed in Canada in 1992 in British Columbia to contribute to the creation of cohousing communities as a model of sustainable development.

The concept emerged in our province about ten years ago with Cohabitat Québec, a project located in the Limoilou area of Quebec City. Quebecers’ interest in cohousing, which was already firmly established, exploded with the pandemic: the web portal of this pioneer- ing complex saw a 50% increase in traffic in 2020, and new initiatives are flourishing, particularly in Montreal and the North Shore of Quebec City.

More than just a housing site, cohousing is considered a model of living that may help prevent loneliness and social isolation by bringing together residents of all ages, families with or without children, as well as elderly people and singles. The emphasis is often placed on social diversity and mutual support. By facilitating active and positive aging, cohousing represents an alternative option to owner-managed residences.

a residential building shared between private units and common spaces

A cohousing project consists of private dwellings in a building where certain resources are pooled. Many spaces and items may be shared, such as kitchens, rooms that can be reserved for guests, coworking spaces, play areas for young children, laundry rooms, cars, barbe- cues, and bicycles. This way of doing things makes it possible to cut down on the size of the units as well as the budget.

Indeed, is the goal to own goods or rather to have access to them? By asking ourselves the right questions, we can take a major step for the environment and for our wallets.

From this hybrid formula somewhere between a condo building, a housing co-op, and a tightly knit community of neighbours, a collective, functional, ecological, and more financially accessible living environment results.

cohousing: a mode of community management

While fostering the creation of a community of neighbours, cohousing preserves the privacy of families, since everyone has their own private unit. The method of organization applied depends on the vision and needs of the residents.

Specifically, with respect to the manage- ment of the project, the common spaces, and the community, the absence of centralized power is advocated, and respect for each individual represents the foundation of communal living: everyone takes part in the decision making. For example, the choice of the owners and tenants is made by consensus, since everyone shares the cohousing project.

And everyone contributes on a daily basis. If you want to be part of a cohousing project, set aside a few hours of involvement per week: the administration of the complex, activities for children, collective cooking, gardening, maintenance…your personal skills and objectives will have to be leveraged for the benefit of all.

ryunosuke kikuno KS1tnTQULCA unsplash - Urban Cohousing: Live Better

eco-friendly choices for the construction and layout of cohousing projects

Living in harmony with others goes hand in hand with respect for the environment, an important value in a cohousing project. This approach also allows access to affordable housing, with an attractive quality of life and more accessible prices thanks to economies of scale. The purchase and operating costs are therefore lower than the market cost.

Savings in terms of money, of course, but also with respect to materials. Indeed, shared cars, lawnmowers, or bicycles offer the possibility of reducing the consumption of goods that are only needed on occasion.

A larger lot is also synonymous with more greenery. Trees, collective gardens, and landscaping are often featured. Designers take advantage of this to leave vehicles at the out- skirts in order to ensure safety and calm within the grounds of the property.

Finally, smart energy use as well as the sustainability and local origin of the materials add to the environmentally friendly approach and allow a great deal of money to be saved in the long term!

martin reisch oo 7yPPjpgI unsplash - Urban Cohousing: Live Better

cohousing projects in quebec

Cohabitat Québec, a pioneer in the province:

The first cohousing group in Quebec, the project is located in the Saint-Sacrement neighbourhood in Quebec City. This is an extensive development that brings together 42 households in total. The LEED Platinum and Novoclimat-certified buildings include townhouses, apartments, and a common building featuring a commercial kitchen, a dining room, a living room with a fireplace, a meeting room, a children’s corner, and a home theatre. There is even a workshop, a laundry room, and a space to store bicycles. Outside, a vegetable garden, fruit trees, a space for campfires, a sandbox, a patio, and barbecues are provided for everyone.

Cohabitat Lachine, a collective intergenerational housing project aimed at eco-responsibility and affordability:

Work is expected to begin on this project in 2023, and it will be built at the intersection of Rue Notre-Dame and 23rd Avenue. Approximately forty dwellings with one to four bedrooms each are divided among buildings connected by outdoor passageways to make this a place of collective living.

The design of the building provides for a net energy consumption lower than 80 kWh/m², thanks to a layout that favours maximum sun- light and insulation that is high-performance all year round.

The short- and long-term affordability of the project is guaranteed by a community trust. One portion of the housing units will be devoted to rentals, and another to sales.

The spirit of sharing, a reduced environmental impact, and life in an intergenerational, family-friendly environment are at the heart of cohousing projects. In the current economic and social context, this new mode of housing seems to offer a new path to communal living, and its success shows that it has its place among the housing innovations that Quebec needs!

Écohabitation has been the reference in sustainable housing in Quebec for more than 20 years, for the general public, industry professionals, and policy makers. Its mission is to share knowledge, know-how, and expertise in healthy, resource- and energy-efficient, sustainable, and affordable housing that is accessible to all. Online guides, video training sessions, coaching services, inspirational photos, and a directory of products and professionals: individuals can find a real gold mine to facilitate their construction, renovation, development, maintenance, and purchase projects. ecohabitation.com