Welcome to the sharing economies latest trend … #househacking, otherwise known as cooperative living – cohousing or the millennial commune.
Shared living space is making a revival after several generations that viewed single home ownership as the ultimate goal. The 60’s and 70’s were the communal living heydays with the hippie generation sharing everything from housing, food and possessions to sexual partners. A toned down version of the movement continued into the 80’s and peaked in the early 90’s. With the economic downturn in recent years, cohousing has made a comeback.
Soaring house prices in cities across Canada, especially Vancouver and Toronto, have made it virtually impossible for millennials to purchase a home. Renting isn’t much better. Anything bigger than a shoebox will likely cost from $1600 to $1800 a month, that is if you can find one. Millennials are finally coming to the conclusion that they must share.
Yes, sharing has become not only cool but necessary. Smart marketing professionals from Silicon Valley created the concept of the “sharing economy” but in reality, it has always been there (think Uber – we used to call it hitchhiking … and it was free) we just didn’t have an app!
When I was in my twenties we all shared housing. Usually a few friends would get together, rent a house in a nice neighbourhood then rent out the rooms in order to cover the costs. We didn’t have formal interviews and applications to determine if we shared common ideals like Pure House, a millennial commune in NYC or the Merkaba Community Collective in Vancouver, but never the less, we did pick and choose our roomies. We did not hold formal house events but we did have parties. We did not have chore schedules posted on a facebook page or other communications platforms but we did communicate openly and if you were a slob, you were given your packing papers.
What is new about cohousing is that a growing number of retired boomers are getting in on the action. Cohousing developments have been growing exponentially in the U.S. but now they are starting to pop up across Canada. British Columbia is definitely leading the way with communities such as the newly built Harbourside Cohousing in Sooke. There are 10 other cohousing developments in various stages of completion around the province according to Tracy Mills, cofounder of the newly formed Saanich Peninsula Cohousing .
The Canadian Cohousing Network has listings for Cohousing Communities across Canada, including here in Ottawa. Terra Firma is a completed cohousing development close to the Rideau Canal while Convivium Cohousing is a group working collaboratively to create an environmentally friendly, adult cohousing community in central Ottawa, of approximately 15 to 20 units, within walking distance of services.
Senior cohousing offers not only an affordable option for aging in place but a supportive community that fosters friendship and mutual assistance. Independent units provide personal space but residents share resources like cars and communal living spaces as well as maintenance work, gardening and even entertainment.
Personally, I think getting together with other boomers to share living space is a great idea! So many of us are thinking about downsizing but who wants to live isolated in a small apartment or condo. There is power in numbers and finding a space that offers both privacy and an opportunity for shared spaces sounds like a sustainable solution.
The Canadian Cohousing Network describes senior cohousing as an opportunity to flourish through mutual support; live affordably on a fixed income; reduce your environmental footprint; improve your quality of life, not to mention the benefit from the social interaction that keeps your brain lively and your spirit nourished. And you can have a lot of fun along the way!
It looks like the hippies are back at it again … just a little bit older and wiser!
To find out more about Senior Cohousing:
An interview with Magdalene, a resident at Wolf Creek Lodge in Grass Valley, CA since 2012. She paints a portrait of the benefits she enjoys while aging in community, and the importance of senior cohousing to meet our needs as we grow older.
Read this wonderful article by Margaret Critchlow, PhD, President of the Canadian Senior Cohousing Society
Visit Cohousing at slowottawa.ca
For Cohousing at any age and the challenges of cohousing watch Erica Elliott