A Saanich Peninsula co-housing group has now secured a site in Sidney, and they plan to build an apartment building and some townhouses (30-35 units) by 2020. The concept of co-housing is meant to create an intentional, collaborate and intergenerational housing community with smaller homes, but a stronger sense of community.
The site, near Brethour and 7th St., is 28,000 sq. ft and was chosen for its proximity to Sidney Elementary, recreation opportunities, and Beacon Ave.
Barb Whittington said the concept began in Denmark 50 years ago, but has spread through Europe and North America. “B.C. seems to be the North American hotbed of trying this model,” she said.
It was a response to young parents who did not want to raise their children in isolation, without the help of their community.
“They looked for an alternative housing concept where they would still have their privacy but would have also have a sense of community, where you can live in a more supportive way,” said Whittington.
There are 13 co-housing communities in B.C., said Whittington, and five more in development (including Ravens Crossing). The group includes people from a wide age range, from young families to seniors. Tracey Mills, another founding member, invited Margaret Critchlow (founder of Harbourside co-housing in Sooke) to talk to a group interested in starting one on the Saanich Peninsula in 2016. The result is Ravens Crossing, where a community would not just live in the same area, but help one another and participate in shared activities.
“You could actually say things like, ‘Could you take me to the airport?” said Whittington.
Co-housing is different from stratas or co-ops, said Whittington, because stratas are hierarchical, but decisions made in co-housing are by consensus. And unlike a co-op, co-housing residents own their own homes.
“It’s not majority rule, it’s not just Tracy and I saying, ‘This is where we’re going to be,” said Whittington.
In addition, each unit is smaller (ranging from 700-1200 sq. ft or so), but there is a larger “common house,” with spare bedrooms, a music room, and enough space for many members to be there at once if they so choose.
They have now hired Cohousing Development Consulting to continue the design process.
The homes will be market value for a condo of the same size in the area. Co-housing is not subsidized in any way in Canada, but Whittington said by collaborating on design and choosing high-quality materials, monthly expenses and repairs are lower.
They are continuing to look for younger families, and those interested in joining can visit ravenscrossingcohousing.ca. The group is also holding an information session at the McTavish Academy of Art in September.
“I think this is one step on the path where people could live together, but in a way where they might get more support and have more fun,” said Whittington.
They will submit plans to the Town of Sidney in the fall.