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We hope that you’ve all had a great summer. The CCN Board has been hard at work planning our first CCN Strategic Planning session, where our current board members will get together to develop a clearer list of goals and strategies for the next few years.

This Strategic Planning session was approved by the CCN membership at the 2023 AGM.
We’re looking for more feedback on what our members want CCN to focus on for the future. You should have received a survey asking for your input (if not: survey in English/enquête en Français).

The CCN Board has identified the following concerns for Canadian Cohousing:

  • Promoting and facilitating the development of cohousing communities across Canada

  • Fostering public, government, and building professions’ awareness about the nature and benefits of cohousing

  • Providing educational services for creating cohousing communities

  • Enabling networking opportunities for those interested in cohousing

  • Establishing standards for cohousing development including accreditation of cohousing professionals

  • Maintaining a cohousing resource directory; and providing support services to groups involved in creating cohousing communities

All of these topics are important for Canadian cohousing, but the CCN board is looking for feedback on how to prioritize our efforts.

In our next newsletter, we’ll have lots of information to give you about the Strategic Planning Retreat!

All the best,

The CCN Board

Cohousing and Affordability

The absolutely most common question that we get at CCN focuses on the issue of how to make cohousing more affordable. This should come as no surprise to our members. If you live anywhere near one of Canada’s major cities (and even if you don’t!), you’re bombarded by news stories about the rising cost of housing.

From The Calgary Herald:

From Justin McElroy, Municipal affairs reporter for CBC Vancouver:

An  op-ed in The Toronto Star:

As you might imagine, many people email CCN in the hopes that cohousing might be an affordable solution for their families.

While there are organizations actively working to find new and more affordable ways to finance housing of many kinds, cohousing is subject to all the same market forces as any other kind of housing in Canada. According to Ronaye Matthew and Margaret Critchlow’s forthcoming book, Community Led Housing: A Cohousing Development Approach, “Affordability is a relative term–it is a spectrum…. [But] the development process [for cohousing] does not of itself generate below market priced homes.” To put it simply, the money to build homes needs to come from somewhere; creating below market priced homes generally requires a subsidy from somewhere, such as the government or other members of the cohousing community.

The following ten strategies are ones that have been proven to be successful:

  1. Work Efficiently

  2. Increase Density

  3. Secure Government Subsidies

  4. Self-Subsidize

  5. Take on risk

  6. Standardize the Design

  7. Pursue Compact Design

  8. Avoid Complexity

  9. Embrace Environmental Sustainability

  10. Use Space Efficiently

You can read more about these strategies in this excerpt from their forthcoming book. Many of them rely on making sure that the design and implementation of any new cohousing community is as efficient, standardized, and as dense as possible in order to get as much return on each dollar invested in the building as possible.

Government subsidies are difficult to come by. In general, they tend to focus on more common forms of social housing, although Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Government of Canada have provided grants for studying cohousing and ways to make it more affordable. In 2022, CNN received a Government of Canada Career Launcher grant to research on affordable cohousing options, focusing on creating a list of organizations that can support the creation of affordable cohousing in Canada by acting as partners or financial contributors (providing grants and/or loans) to cohousing development projects. The results of this grant research are available on the CCN website.

CCN is also aware of several groups that are working on developing other models for creating affordable cohousing, but are not yet ready with information to share. CCN will stay in touch because of our desire to see more affordable cohousing in Canada!

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New Book about cohousing coming in 2024!

A new and important book by Ronaye Matthew and Margaret Critchlow, Community Led Housing: A Cohousing Development Approach, will be released in early 2024!

Both Ronaye and Margaret are CCN board members and longtime cohousing residents. Ronaye is the founder and lead consultant behind Cohousing Development Consulting (CDC), a firm that has been providing development management services for cohousing groups since 1996 and has helped eleven cohousing projects come to completion. Margaret was founding director of the Canadian Senior Cohousing Society and a Community Building Facilitator with CDC who offers workshops for new cohousers who want to build their membership and/or understand more about how cohousing can support aging in place.

The purpose of the book is to support the cohousing movement, as well as other community led housing groups, to achieve greater success by providing practical information, workshops and training about what is required to make a project happen. It will be a "how to guide" that summarizes a proven, experience-based approach to creating new communities.

Save the date for SOFA 2023 conference "Deciding How We Want to Live." Image depicts several houses with a purple sky above

Sociocracy for All (SoFA) holding their 3rd annual online conference!

SoFA's 2023 conference will be held on November 18, 2023, under the theme

"Sociocracy in Intentional Communities: Deciding How We Want to Live." For this conference, SoFA will focus on themes related to exploring how sociocracy supports ecovillages, cohousing projects, housing cooperatives, and other intentional communities to design a life that meets our personal and collective needs.

Click here for more information and registration!

News and Updates from CCN Communities!

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The largest solar system in the District of Sooke has just been installed at Harbourside Cohousing! The project cost $111,000, which required a $500 special assessment applied to each unit and the balance coming from voluntary contributions. The strata structure of the community meant that they were not eligible of a number of federal programs that fund solar energy. 

The rooftop panels will supply 50% of Harbourside's common electrical needs, which includes all hot water, the operation of 4000 square feet of meeting space and guest suites, all outdoor lighting, sewer pumps, and the two EV charging stations. When the sun is shining and high in the sky during half the year, the panels produce more electricity than needed and, thanks to a bidirectional smart meter, the excess is fed into BC Hydro’s grid. Through an arrangement with BC Hydro’s Net Metering program, the community receives a credit for that excess, which can be used during the lower solar production months of winter.

Solar and wind energy have become the cheapest source of electricity on the planet. Although BC produces a lot of hydro power, the demand for electricity on Vancouver Island is increasing exponentially due to population growth, reduced reliance on fossil fuels, and the switch to electric cars. BC Hydro is now predicting a possible shortage of hydro-electricity by 2035. Vancouver Island gets most of its electricity from the mainland through huge underwater cables. A natural disaster and other power outage events have Harbourside researching the possibility of integrating the solar generating system with the storage capabilities of the batteries in electric vehicles as an emergency backup. The community also plans to eventually add more panels to reach net zero billing by BC Hydro and protect residents from the inflationary costs of higher electricity prices. By installing this system, the residents are securing the price of the electricity for the 30-year lifespan of the panels.

This solar project’s cost, energy price security, and climate change concerns made it a unanimous go for this residential community. Sooke has excellent future potential for increased solar use. It is becoming more familiar to see rooftop panels in Sooke as costs have dropped and the benefits are obvious.

Image of Pacific Gardens' community sign in front of their building. The building is red and the area in front is grassy. A woman in a plaid shirt and visor is weeding near the sign.

Pacific Gardens has designated approximately 1/3 of their property to be a wildlife habitat with a committee dedicated to maintaining it. They received grants from several NGOs and are now working to remove invasive plants and plant native species.

The designated wildlife habitat includes a wetland pond which is home to at least one family of ducks and hundreds of Pacific Tree Frogs. Residents have documented 41 different species of birds in this area.

They love living so close to so much wildlife and are happy to be able to contribute to this 're-wilding'!

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In June, Little Mountain Cohousing in Vancouver, B.C. had its first "Rug-Clean-O-Rama!" They borrowed a professional rug cleaner and residents brought nearly every rug in the building down to the common house and courtyard for cleaning. The event was so successful that they're planning on making it a regular event. They highly recommend it for other communities!

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Hearthstone Village Cooperative is growing! This summer they have two new members building homes using clay/straw modified cob and another family exploring potential membership in their Tiny Home!

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On July 18, Urban Green received their occupancy permit for the first and second floor! This means that 14 households have been in various stages of moving in—two households didn't waste any time: they spent their first night in their new home on the night of July 19. Third and fourth floor residents were able to move in a few weeks later.

Congrats, Urban Green!

They were also featured on the CBC Edmonton AM radio broadcast.

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Roberts Creek Cohousing has a woodworking shop with donated machinery and hand tools. The woodshop has proven to be invaluable for community projects and members working on personal projects. It's also home for a Friday afternoon dart game that has become a Roberts Creek institution. A wood stove fueled by leftover wood from projects and downed trees on the property provides warmth during the cooler months. The shop has been such a success that they have even built an addition with donated materials! 

Does your community have a shop? What's the coolest or most useful thing that someone has made in it? 

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As part of their community outreach, Ravens Crossing Cohousing in Sidney, B.C. recently installed a Little Free Library in front of the building. Sidney Elementary School is across the street from them, so they have both children's and adult books. The box was decorated by members and is well used and appreciated!

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Treehouse Village Ecohousing (TVE), Atlantic Canada's first cohousing community, has its first residents! The first families moved into the cohousing development in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia in late July. They'll be joined by other households over the next few months as the 30-family, multi-age, passive house development is completed. Find out more about the first TVE residents here!

Radiance Cohousing was featured in Saskatoon HOME Magazine article entitled "Living Together, Separately: Building Community Through Cohousing."

It's a really lovely piece about their community and cohousing in general. Here's a small quote from one of the residents: 

"Shannon [a resident of Radiance Cohousing] adds that "living lightly on the earth, but fully, with others," is another shared value. "We share this desire to work on things together--whether that project is the garden, building something or having craft nights."

You can read the full article (with lots of beautiful photos!) here.

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Dan Parker, A resident of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community in Nanaimo, has done a series of concerts over the last year or so, raising funds for community projects and local charities.

In real life Dan is a high school teacher, but he loves to perform and has a terrific singing voice. His concerts have featured the Beatles, Bossa Nova, Alt-folk musician Spooky Rubens, and Schubert's Lieder!

Most recently, he put on a concert of Leonard Cohen songs on September 9th, with the proceeds going towards an extra EV charger for the community parking lot so they can get an EV Modo car share.

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