There are many factors that Vancouverites and non-Vancouverites alike contribute to “the Vancouver Brand”. When it comes to politics, the general consensus is that we’re a bunch of hippies – a left-wing bunch who prefer to approach government with a laissez-faire attitude. Fashion-wise, everyone knows that an undying love for the great outdoors is the (poor) excuse for the astonishing number of individuals traipsing around in ‘active’ clothing, namely Lululemon and Taiga, any and every day of the week. And where housing is concerned, there’s sure a lot of people who don’t want things to change in Vancouver. In fact, our NIMBYs are the envy of the NIMBY world, what with their social media organizing savvy and snappy poster-headline writing skills.
But brand attributes can change – even commonly accepted ones. And as of last month, an entirely new way to look at housing arrived in Vancouver.
Along with award-winning green developer Alan Forrester and local co-housing experts Yonas Jongkind, Vivian and Paul Vaillant and Alan Carpenter, California-based architect Charles Durrett is looking to build Vancouver’s first cohousing community on piece of land the group purchased at 33rd Avenue near Victoria Drive.
Durrett, with his wife Kathryn McCamant, introduced the concept and coined the word “cohousing” in the U.S. with their book, Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. Now, with the help of Forrester, Durrett is championing the concept in the Great White North.
Essentially, cohousing features privately titled homes, townhomes or apartments, with a strata, but fosters community-driven living through common gathering spaces, such as a community kitchen, guest accommodations and gardens.
And as far as Forrester is concerned, it’s a model that just makes sense. “Cohousing is about creating communities that offer opportunities for people to connect,” said Forrester in a recent Vancouver Sun article. “This is about social sustainability. It’s a good model and it makes sense in so many ways.”
Fair enough. But sometimes – actually, lots of times – I don’t feel like getting to know my neighbours. I like my privacy. I don’t want my Sunday-morning-espresso-and-stack-of-weekend-newspapers time to be interrupted by Chatty Kathy in unit 201, who is all worked up about her perennials. And I’ll hazard a guess that I’m part of the mainstream majority opinion on this one.
Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. Here we have a group of entrepreneurs working hard to create a more feasible way for home ownership in this city, and, whether I can imagine living there or not, the effort itself is certainly worthy of applause. Perhaps if we were more open to rebranding what it means to own a home, we would be more inclined to see value in alternative ways of living.
What do you think? Is cohousing a viable alternative? Do you have experience with cohousing in your city? Would you consider it successful? Leave your comments below or e-mail me at [email protected].
P.S. Our NIMBYs have yet to weigh in on this issue. This is your chance to beat them to the social media punch!