[Editor’s Note: This is a copy of our regular community newsletter. If you’d like to sign up, email us at hello@compasscohousing.com.]

We asked Christine, a member of Little Mountain Cohousing in Vancouver, to share her experiences with living in cohousing. Read on to hear what she has to say.

Hi! My name is Christine and I live in a cohousing community in the Vancouver area.

Often, when I see articles extolling the benefits of cohousing, it focuses on how it’s great for families and retired people—and it definitely is! But I’m 45 years old and I’ve been living in cohousing with my partner for about 18 months now (no kids for us!), so I’d like to focus on the aspects of cohousing that really work for us: more opportunities for socializing; the ways that cohousing works as a support network; and the chances to share resources. These aspects of cohousing can be appreciated by people of any age, but they’ve been some of the things that I have found particularly rewarding.

At a cohousing party with my partner
At a cohousing party with my partner

I really love the opportunities for low-key socializing in our building. I am an extrovert who works from home most days; I love being able to go sit in our courtyard or common house and just run into people who are also looking to chat or hang out for a bit. We also have an in-building messaging app and it’s not uncommon for someone to send a message on a random weeknight just saying ‘hey, anyone up for a drink on the roof?’ or ‘I’m hanging out in the common house if anyone wants to join me’. Sometimes, a couple of people come to join in and sometimes you end up with a crowd. Either way, it’s a nice way to socialize without the rigamarole of going out or making specific plans (cheaper too!). In our building, we have semi-regular game nights; small dinner parties; knitting groups; and potlucks. It’s also common to get invited to go on bike rides or listen to some of the musicians who live in the building play an impromptu concert.

Musicians at play in the building
Musicians at play in the building

Living in cohousing also makes hosting parties easier! We live in a small(ish) unit, so if we’re having more than 2 or 3 people over, we do it in the common house and we usually invite our neighbors. (Also, during these covid times, this has been great because the common house is adjacent to a large outdoor courtyard where we can hang out.) Because everyone in the building is familiar with the common house kitchen, we have found that we end up with a ton of ‘helpers’ during parties. Neighbors helping to prep and put out food, directing guests, and assisting with cleanup. Everyone helps out just a bit but it winds up making the whole event go more smoothly.

In addition to the social aspects, as an adult without any local family, cohousing also feels a lot like a second family. There are people here, right in the building, to help with things like feeding pets, watering plants, airport runs, advice about doctors or accountants or whatever-you-need, or just someone to give you an onion when you forgot to go to the store. It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing that I’ve extended my local support network. It’s also really rewarding to help other people in your community when they need it.

We end up sharing a lot of household resources, knowledge, and skills. For example, not everyone in the building needs to own their own sewing machine, ladder, or crockpot. Someone in the building probably has one of those things already and it’s easy to borrow. In terms of knowledge and skills, I’ve relied on neighbors for information as varied as traveling and hiking in BC, questions about mortgages, and how to fix a faulty door lock. In turn, I often serve as the ‘point person’ when neighbors have questions about technology or online resources. We also have a small, informal group of people in the building who do various kinds of freelance work and we often work together and share skills in editing, grant-writing, website development, and photography. While I might have always had friends and family who would help with various things, having all of these resources in the building makes them easier to access.

Some of this might sound like it’s a lot of work. But, what I’ve found is that everyone focuses on the things that they love. I’m not much of a gardener, but I love seeing the fruit, vegetables, and flowers planted and maintained by my neighbors. Some of my neighbors aren’t very tech-savvy, but I help them navigate new technologies and online resources. Living in cohousing makes it easier to share these skills, knowledge, experiences, and resources, while also having opportunities to socialize and feel supported.

Christine
Little Mountain Cohousing

Small group of cohousing neighbors heading out for a bike ride
Small group of cohousing neighbors heading out for a bike ride