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The board has been hard at work on implementing our new strategic plan!

We’ve been so pleased with the new webinar series. In February, CCN Board Member Lysa Dixon, who is also a mortgage specialist in BC, presented on different options for mortgages and financing for cohousing. If you missed it, once the website refresh is done, we’ll have a video of the webinar up on the Members-Only section.

We also have a March zoom event planned. On Saturday, 23 March at 10am PT, Ronaye Matthew and Margaret Critchlow, two CCN board members, will hold a virtual party to celebrate the launch of their new book: Community Led Housing: A Cohousing Development Approach. Ronaye and Margaret both have incredible expertise at getting cohousing communities built–they have guided 11 communities to completion and this book condenses their knowledge into a readable, how-to guide. 

Register to come to the webinar. 

Also, let us know if you have ideas or requests for future webinars!

A significant part of the work that we’ve been doing over the last couple of months has been working on the website refresh that we mentioned in the December 2023 newsletter. And now we’re at the stage where we need some help from you!

What we need:

  • Additional photos! There are a lot more cohousing communities now than there were when we first built the site; we’d love to supplement our existing images with some new shots!

  • Recipes! Do you have a favorite recipe for a common meal? Please share it! Common meals can be intimidating for new communities and we want to try to make it easier!

  • Suggestions for resources! What else do you want to have available on the website? Examples of community structures and bylaws? Spreadsheets for tracking common house kitchen items? Policies for using common spaces? We’d love to find out what resources people are looking for and post examples from our communities so we can all learn from each other!

  • We're also trying to translate the permanent content on the website into French so that it's available in both of Canada's official languages. If you are a French speaker and willing to volunteer some time to help us, please email Lysa.

You can send photos, recipes, and other resources to Christine at [email protected]. Please also don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or suggestions!

All the best,

The CCN Board

VoIP and Cohousing: a Helpful Tool for Reducing Phone Expenses

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and Cohousing

Okay, quick–before you run away because you’re scared that we’re about to get all technical– we’re wondering: what kind of phone lines do you have installed for your building’s elevator, alarm system, or enterphone system? Is what you pay for these phone lines significant? Do you already have internet service?

Fees for those phone lines can be really expensive. Prairie Spruce Commons uses VoIP, which sends your phone calls over the internet instead of over phone lines. This has reduced their costs significantly! At Prairie Spruce, they used to have three phone lines that cost them almost $1500/year. But their total VoIP bill is now approximately $15/year. They replaced their elevator, alarm, and enterphone phone lines with VoIP adapters and connected them up to a company called voip.ms.

The initial setup did involve some costs–they had to buy adapters and a battery backup system to keep the phone lines active during a power outage. The total installation cost about $400. They’ve now been using VoIP for about four years. The system functions with very minimal oversight.

We realize that this sounds a bit like the email version of an infomercial, but this kind of upgrade might really save your community a lot of money. Henning Mortensen, who is on CCN’s board and lives in Prairie Spruce, would be happy to answer any questions you might have about installing a VoIP system. He was deeply involved with the installation at Prairie Spruce and he’s happy to walk you through the process.

You can contact Henning at: [email protected]. (No charge – just advice from another cohouser who wants to help other communities save some money to do something more fun, like host common meals!)

Community Highlight: Blueberry Commons

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Blueberry Commons Breaking Ground in Late Summer, 2024

Located on BC's beautiful Sunshine Coast in Tla'amin traditional territory, Blueberry Commons Farm Cooperative brings together the values of close connection to land and nature with local food security and living in community. The founders looked at more than 35 possible properties before settling on 16 acres of forest, farmland, and meadow located on the edge of the Wildwood neighbourhood in Powell River. Co-founder Ron Berezan observes that "As soon as we walked onto this land we knew it was the place!" The land has a history of farming with fertile, productive soil, over 800 blueberry plants, 50 fruit trees, two acres of vegetable farmland and three greenhouses. "There is wilderness behind us with 180 km of hiking trails and a vibrant neighbourhood in front of us. We couldn't imagine a better location!"

Bringing together farming and community is nothing new, though there are fewer contemporary cohousing communities attempting to do so these days. Having the farm was one of the reasons that the group chose to be a cooperative rather than a strata as the coop legal structure allows for commercial enterprises along with housing. Members have the opportunity to be involved in the farm to the extent that they wish—from full or part-time employment, to volunteering just a few hours a week, to supporting the life of the community in other ways. There are many roles to fill but a commitment to food security and to close connection to land and nature is ultimately what brings all members, and many from the wider community, together in a unified purpose.

Developing the housing component of the project has taken longer than the group had expected and the challenges of the pandemic, including runaway construction costs, haven't made it any easier. Rather than proceeding with the full scale development of 30 units as was originally planned, the group has entered into a contract with Ronaye Matthew (Cohousing Development Consulting) to undertake a first phase of 7 units and expects to break ground in late summer of this year.

The group is currently finalizing the home design and construction budget. They are working with Spani Developments, a very well established fine home builder on the Sunshine Coast who is excited to be working with a resident group developer. Ronaye worked with Spani previously to construct the Painted Boat Resort in Madeira Park. They are collaborative, highly knowledgeable, and focused on providing a quality product at a cost that the client can afford. The homes (single family and duplexes) are expected to be in the $670,000 range which includes co-ownership of the farm enterprise and all of the land. The members are very interested in ensuring the homes are affordable and Spani is assisting in finding cost effective ways to make this project a reality.

"We have had to be very creative in finding a pathway forward in less than ideal times," says Berezan. "But after several years of hard work we are ecstatic to be moving forward in a concrete way." Having seven homes in the near future will allow the group to catch their breath and address some of the other challenges to developing the full-scale community. They currently have four fully committed families and welcome applications for the remaining three homes which they hope will be snapped up quickly.

Interested prospective members are invited to visit the blueberry Commons website at www.blueberrycommons.ca and to email [email protected].

If your community has recently reached a milestone and would like to be featured, please reach out to Christine.

Upcoming Webinars!

CCN Webinar: Sat Mar 23, 10-11am PST on zoom

Join us to celebrate Ronaye Matthew and Margaret Critchlow’s new book, Community Led Housing: A Cohousing Development Approach.

When it comes to creating housing that is socially connected and sustainable, Ronaye and Margaret have the expertise gained from supporting eleven successful cohousing communities to completion. This practical book condenses their knowledge into a readable, how-to guide.

Attend this free webinar to meet the authors, learn why they’re sharing their proven approach in this ground-breaking book, gain practical tips to avoiding pitfalls and reaching success, and join an interactive Q&A session.

Register here!

Sociocracy for All is hosting a free webinar on March 27th!

A ProSocial Perspective on Sociocracy: How Community Culture Shapes Cooperation and Trust (March 27)

Prosocial is a framework based both on direct observation of successful indigenous peoples’ practices and behavioral science. It comprises eight core principles to design a culture that strengthens whole group wellbeing by unpacking the difference between “power-with” versus “power-over” dynamics. You probably recognize some similarities with sociocracy in there! Kathleen Walsch is involved in both worlds and will present on how sociocracy can bring prosocial design principles to life. 

Register here.

News and Updates from CCN Communities!

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Our Urban Village became Vancouver’s latest cohousing community to open its doors when residents moved in during Summer of 2023. Since then, and especially during the festive season, the focus has been on making the building feel like home, whether that means buying a community barbeque, dressing the Christmas tree in the common house, or an impromptu snowball fight!

OUV is a multigenerational cohousing community on Main Street near East 41st Avenue, right at the heart of a rich multicultural neighbourhood. Their beautiful new building is a 3-storey low-rise building with 12 units, ranging from studios to 3-bedrooms.

Their community is aiming to bring in four more households in 2024, so if you or anyone you know is interested, please visit their website for more information.

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Little Mountain Cohousing in Vancouver, BC has a great common meals program, with three meals a week. But recently, they brought things to a new level.

Last year, the community bought an outdoor gas-powered pizza oven. So, for a meal featuring a selection of curries, one of the cooks made fresh naan for more than 40 people! They started with 4kg of dough!

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Creekside Commons in Courtenay, BC restarted community meals mid-COVID and, right away they had good attendance again, but they were doing a lot of takeout. Now they have scheduled meals prepared by three cook teams, typically limited to 25 people (but almost always fully booked), occasional pot-lucks, and even "event meals" with around 50 people!

Recently they tried a Sunday cafe open from noon to 3: how would the community of 35
homes with about 65+ residents respond? Almost the everyone came out for soup, sandwiches, coffee, or treats!

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Compass Cohousing in Langley, BC is excited to announce that the subdivision of their land has happened and they are in the final stages of arranging the financing!

Tendering has gone out, so they'll know final prices soon! They're celebrating with loads of planning and social gatherings!

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Opportunity to Try Cohousing for Free! 

An owner at Cranberry Commons is looking to sublet their unit for the summer in exchange for dog sitting the A+ pupper pictured above!

Furnished master bedroom available from May 1 to July 31 in a townhouse in “The Heights” in the heart of North Burnaby, suitable for one person or a couple. Live Rent-Free in exchange for caring for our well-behaved, neutered 2 year old Golden Doodle. Share 1½ bath, kitchen and living area with two independent young men, our dog, and two cats. Includes utilities, access to our hot tub, high speed internet (wired and WiFi), laundry, and bike room.

If interested, please email Anne for more information!

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