Vancouver’s first cohousing project breaks ground

By Emily Jackson Metro

03_16_van_cohousing_emilyjackson

By: Emily Jackson Metro, Metro Published on Mon Jul 14 2014 – Xavier Toriel, 2, alongside his sister Ruby, 5, Wilder Griffiths, 3 and Emiliano Cortes, 5, break ground for their future home in Vancouver’s first cohousing project at East 33rd Avenue near Victoria Drive.

A new East Van development is being lauded as friendlier, more affordable and greener than most – but don’t plan on moving in if you can’t stomach the idea of cooking for 31 families every so often.

Vancouver’s first cohousing project broke ground on Tuesday, an occasion celebrated by future residents and city officials alike as shovels entered the ground near East 33rdAvenue and Victoria Drive.

The development, which sits on three lots in a single-family neighbourhood, will have 31 units and about 6,000 square feet of communal space in four three-storey buildings.

Residents buy the units similar to a condo strata (only three are still available), but opt to live in a close-knit community where decisions are made by consensus. While they take turns cooking about three communal meals each week, each unit comes with a private kitchen.

“This is a damn good idea,” Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang said at the groundbreaking. “It’s a great use of land, it’s a very sensitive amount of density and it reduces costs.”

Jang championed the project as an innovative way to deal with some of Vancouver’s problems, including the prevailing sense of loneliness in the city revealed in a Vancouver Foundation report that found residents lack a sense of community.

Although the units aren’t cheap, living is more affordable with shared office space and built-in babysitters, he said.

“It’s not for everybody but for the people it works for let’s do it,” he said, adding it’s part of the housing mix that can keep young people in the city. (There will be more than a dozen children living in the development when it’s ready in about 14 months.)

After thousands of hours of volunteer work and a marathon public hearing to rezone the land, future resident Darcy Riddell was thrilled to see construction start.

“It’s been a long haul. It’s really exciting,” she said.

While some neighbours didn’t like the idea of additional density on the street – the most opposed neighbour sold his house – Riddell said the cohousing community is excited to welcome the rest of the neighbourhood once it’s built. They plan to host potlucks, use their courtyard as a performance space and will even have a yoga room.