Interior view of the WindSong cohousing development in Langley. (Providence Cohousing photo)

Interior view of the WindSong cohousing development in Langley. (Providence Cohousing photo)

COLUMN: Living the life in an intentional community

Columnist ML Burke has toured 10 cohousing communities but had never stayed in one — until now

Over the past 10 years I’ve been a big fan of cohousing. I did a five-day facilitation training with husband-and-wife architects Charles Durrett and Katie McCamant, both of whom are considered the instigators of the growing cohousing movement in North America. I’ve toured 10 cohousing communities but had never actually spent more than a day in each one — until now.

A rental opportunity came up in a cohousing community on Vancouver Island. As I write this I’m four of seven weeks along in this exploration. So what exactly is cohousing?

According to the National Cohousing Association in the U.S., “cohousing is community designed to foster connection, an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each attached or single-family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry, and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, open space and gardens. Neighbours also share resources like tools and lawnmowers. Cohousing makes it easy to form clubs, organize carpooling and child or elder care.”

I was curious to find out if I would be a fit for this lifestyle because, contrary to popular opinion, I am bit reclusive. So far I’m having a lovely time in my self-contained two-bedroom apartment, getting to know the neighbours, participating in potlucks, Sunday brunches and M&M (Meal & Movie) Nights. Everything is optional and help with prep and clean-up is appreciated.

Most “coho” communities are kept to around 30 dwellings or 50-odd people. The forming members are involved in the planning stages and act as the developer, which saves money. They take the risk and invest the funds to make the project happen while working with architects and other professionals. The legal structure is a self-managed strata, which empowers residents, builds community and saves money. Decision making is participatory and based on consensus. Homes are bought and sold at market value.

The challenges in cohousing are finding the land along with a committed group willing to put in the time and financial infusions as the project progresses, which typically takes around five years and involves many meetings. By move-in date, the forming members have forged deep relationships.

Living in cohousing is similar to being married to a bunch of like-minded friends who don’t always agree. Incoming residents need to understand the community’s focus and live by its rules and expectations. If you have a pleasant personality, patience and are willing to do your fair share, it could be the best decision you’ll ever make.

I hope to facilitate an “affordable” double cohousing community with a shared common house — one for young families and the other for empty-nesters and downsizers — because it’s the land cost that makes housing so out-of-reach. The affordability would be in the acquisition of an acre or two inside Paterson Park, which the City of Delta would lease for a dollar a year. Anyone who wants to be part of forming a group for young families or older adults, let me know.

(To learn more visit the Canadian Cohousing Network website at

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team, the City of Delta’s Community Liveability Advisory Committee and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Surrey RCMP investigating death threat against councillor Hundial

‘On Monday morning I received a threat on messenger that basically said to put a bullet in me,’ Councillor Jack Hundial told the Now-Leader

Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis and her dog Randi (foreground) bring toy donations to Saverio Lattanzio of Surrey Firefighters Association (holding toy) and fellow firefighters. (submitted photo: Pace Group)
Firefighters’ ‘Drive-by toy drive’ for Surrey Christmas Bureau, as SuperChefs cooks up kits

‘It’s been a particularly tough year for so many of our Surrey families’

Crew works to remove the Toys ‘R’ Us sign from the North Surrey store in late October, in video posted to Facebook by Scott Dombrowski.
Closure of Toys ‘R’ Us store in Surrey a step forward for ‘Georgetown’ development

Video of toy store sign’s removal stirs memories on Facebook group

Delta Foundation logo. (Delta Foundation image)
More Delta charities to receive emergency funding

Delta Foundation granted out another $76,370 through Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund

File photo
Surrey Downtown BIA launches shop local campaign

Meantime, BC Buy Local Week runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 in Surrey

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Most Read