Cohousing Canada – September Newsletter
Hello From the CCN Board
Hello and welcome to our first newsletter! We’re planning on putting these out every three months to let our members know what the CCN board is up to and also to help our communities build new connections. If you have any thoughts about content for future CCN newsletters, please email us!
During our Annual General Meeting, the board identified a few projects to focus on for the coming year, such as clarifying the definition of cohousing; advocating for sustainable, diverse, and affordable housing; and building stronger connections between our members and member communities.
As cohousing is getting more popular, we have been seeing problems arise due to conflicting definitions of the concept of “cohousing.” In order to clarify the definition of cohousing, a CCN working group composed a new (and clearer!) definition of cohousing for our website and also created a filter on our cohousing communities page to let people filter for “condo/strata communities” or “co-op communities.” We hope that these changes will help clarify the legal structure behind our cohousing communities. You can read below about why these changes are so important for the future of cohousing.
In addition to definitions, the board has also being starting the hard discussions around how to make cohousing more affordable. Last year, CCN secured a Canadian government grant to explore the United Kingdom’s national network system that has seen increased government support and funding for cohousing. You can read the report, with recommendations on best practices that Canada can adopt to help more groups form their own communities, on the CCN website.
These conversations about affordability and sustainability are ongoing, but the goal is to increase diversity in cohousing while making cohousing more accessible without the need for subsidies. To help achieve this goal, CCN has become a founding member of Community Wealth BC, alongside Roots to Roofs Community Development Society, Home Opportunities Non-profit, CoHousing Options Canada Non-profit, the Aboriginal Skilled Workers Association, and the Canadian Union of Skilled Workers.
We have also been working on revamping and streamlining our application process for new member communities and for new professional members. Part of these changes involve a discussion about the new ‘individual member’ category approved at the 2022 AGM. The board is working to determine how this membership category can be helpful in facilitating communities and creating robust networks. Stay tuned for future webinars and online events about cohousing! We had a highly successful webinar featuring Katie McCamant from Cohousing Solutions in January and we are planning more for this Fall.
Quick Poll: CCN has been considering organizing a retreat for current members of cohousing communities. This event would be distinct from any kind of conference—the retreat would be aimed at providing a space for current cohousers to meet and build connections. Please answer this one question poll to let us know if this is something you would be interested in!
The Importance of a Clear Definition of Cohousing in Canada
What happens when you tell people that you live in cohousing? Some people have heard of cohousing before, some people assume you mean a co-op, and some just give you a blank stare.
While it’s easy to talk about our own experiences in cohousing, actually defining “cohousing” can be a bit tricky. If you look up cohousing online, you’ll sometimes see terms like “cohousing” being used interchangeably with “co-housing” and “co-owning,” when they are three very different things!
The CCN board, along with active members, has been working on clarifying the definition cohousing so that—when we talk about our communities—we can have a clear, consistent definition. Consistency allows us to all speak the same language and create policies and procedures that don’t interfere with each other. It will also help people and institutions looking to get involved in cohousing. When groups are forming, investors really need to understand what they’re putting their money into. Further, banks need a clear definition in order to understand that—from a legal, financial, or liability perspective—cohousing mortgages aren’t any different from the condo/strata or co-op mortgages that they already fund.
Cohousing isn’t a legal title but a way that we organize how we live in cohousing. The legal title—for example, condo/strata or co-op—regulates a lot of our behavior within cohousing. For example, how we talk about “participation” in our communities is an example of how misinformation about cohousing can cause problems. At its core, cohousing is a form of intentional community. And a key component is the voluntary participation in keeping our communities functioning—doing the hard (but fun!) work of running common meals, serving on committees, and engaging in workbees. Sometimes our definitions of cohousing focus on this participation. But, did you know that, depending on how the property title is legally held, it may not be allowable to require participation in our communities? Condo/strata-titled cohousing communities cannot require participation at all. So, when our websites talk about required participation, it can make banks nervous about funding our mortgages because it gives the appearance that we’re not following provincial regulations.
The way we talk about participation is only one example of how definitions of cohousing can get muddied and cause problems for new and forming groups. By working to clarify these definitions, we are hoping to help support our existing cohousing communities and facilitate the creation of new ones!