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Co-housing isn't cheaper but better for families, says Coquitlam group seeking to build five-storey project

Coquitlam Cohousing is looking for members to invest and live in a five-storey real estate project with family-friendly amenities that make it easy to get to know your neighbours.

A type of home ownership that promotes family life and community living — not just real estate profits — is coming to Coquitlam.

It's called co-housing, and after successful projects in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Langley and Nanaimo, the concept is coming to the City of Coquitlam.

A form of strata, where people own their own homes but share common spaces, including a community kitchen where they can eat together, co-housing encourages neighbourliness and hearkens back to an earlier era, according to Yonas Jongkind, a proponent of Coquitlam Cohousing

Not cheaper to build but still budget-friendly

"I grew up in a smaller town. I was used to more community and [the idea] just really jumped out at me," said Jongkind, who lives in a co-housing development in Nanaimo but previously lived with his family at Windsong in Langley.

Jongkind said most co-housing projects have long waiting lists as more families, and seniors, seek alternatives to typical condos or townhouses where it can be hard to get to know your neighbour.

These new forms of development, where kitchen windows look onto "community streets," are an antidote to massive developments where people can feel isolated and alone.

"I think it’s more reflective of how humans are meant to live: in a small village or tribal way in a small group of connected people," said Jongkind. 

It's not necessarily a cheaper form of housing, said Jongkind, as Coquitlam Cohousing would have to deal with the same construction and land costs as every other developer.

However, there are savings to be had in the way the building is designed; for example, a room for visitors wouldn't be necessary because co-housing projects typically include places for visitors to stay.

As well, simply living in a community can save money because residents come together to form child care clubs or gather for dining clubs, saving money on restaurant costs.

The architectural elements are uniquely tailored to meet the needs of co-housing members, and include small spaces where people can chat for a few minutes before heading off to work and children can play.

Langley's Windsong Cohousing Community has covered porches along a pedestrian "street" where tables and toys are left outside and planters of flowers add vibrancy and colour.

Raising kids 'easier' in co-housing neighbourhoods

Raising kids in co-housing was heaven, said Jongkind, who said parents naturally supported each other with child care.

"We didn’t have to have a play date and a big song and dance. It was more authentic. I felt like we could hang out with other parents and kids and support each other."

Now this co-housing community-building concept, which got its start in Denmark in the 1960s, is seeking a toehold in Coquitlam.

Meetings are being organized virtually, including on Wednesday (Aug. 17) and Sunday (Aug. 21), to provide prospective members with more information.

Tours of other co-housing projects are also being organized.

Jongkind said Coquitlam Cohousing is at its most delicate stage: a property has been identified at at 1138 Falcon Dr., and the group is looking for members to put money down to purchase the property.

$130K investment needed

A Sept. 17 deadline has been established to see if there is enough interest to proceed with purchasing the property, which currently houses an automotive servicing shop.

The plan is to build a five-storey building with 14 homes, ranging from one to four bedrooms.

Participants would put up about $130,000 each toward the land costs, and get a mortgage to cover the approximately $900 per square foot construction cost.

Co-housing suggested price list

"Community space usually includes a kitchen, a dining area, a lounge, a children’s playground, a workshop and often some kind of multipurpose room, for yoga classes, or a workout room, and every project has got its own garbage room and biking room," Jongkind said.

Approximate costs listed on the website include the following: 

  • One-bedroom, 558 sq. ft. = $434,300
  • Two-bedroom, 900 sq. ft. = $765,000
  • Four-bedroom, 1,284 sq. ft. = $1,091,400
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