[Editor’s Note: Following is an article that was prepared for the Black Press News network.]
Three decades ago, Howard Staples and his wife Miriam Evers set out to create the WindSong Cohousing Community. At the time they had an idealistic view of community living — they believed their family, their community and the world would be better off if they shared resources, nurtured stronger relationships with neighbours, and were more locally responsible.
The growing cohousing movement had future residents involved in every part of the planning and design of the new community, in order to create a very safe village atmosphere where neighbors interacted and shared extensively. However, unlike housing co-ops, the residents still had equity ownership of their home.
Now, after 26 years thriving in the Langley community Howard and Miriam are still passionate about cohousing. The ideals still apply, but the more significant benefits of cohousing are the everyday practicalities.
“It’s just practical for everyday life. So many things are much easier when you trust and cooperate with neighbors. Yesterday we ran out of peppers as we were cooking dinner, and within minutes we’d found one to borrow from a neighbour. Often it’s a competition, to see who can deliver what you need the fastest!” Howard laughs. “Then there’s shared rides, having someone to go for a walk with, shared care for pets, help in an emergency, a network to help find work, and so on. When you take dozens of these small benefits and multiply by a lifetime, it adds up to a greatly enriched life.”
For the last three years Howard has been helping nearby Compass Cohousing develop a plan, gain approval and attract residents for their community near the corner of 203rd Street and 66th Avenue in Langley, expected to open in Spring 2024.
Compass will have many of the practical benefits as other cohousing communities: access to a large, shared workshop with more tools than most families could afford to buy on their own, shared internet, the opportunity for shared meals in the common kitchen (each suite has its own private kitchen as well) and rich relationships with people of all ages. Plus Compass will be very walkable to shopping and be more sustainable, with energy efficient design and heat pumps.
Cohousing for singles, families and seniors
Miriam was initially hesitant about the idea of communal living, but after reading more about successful cohousing communities she became more enthusiastic.
“I saw beautiful pictures of children playing on pedestrian, car-free streets, neighbours meeting in frontyards. I thought, I could live like this! And it’s turned out to be wonderful,” she says. “The front part of the house is more public and the back is private. Even though you have a shared Common House, maintaining privacy is still an important thing — there are times when people just need to cocoon for a while.”
Howard and Miriam raised their children in cohousing and are now empty nesters, which means they’ve experienced the community from multiple perspectives. Their children grew up in a liberating space where they were free to create their own activities with people of all ages. While many young families spend evenings and weekends driving between activities, much of the Staples’ social lives took place within the cohousing community — and was much more spontaneous. Now as empty-nesters, Howard and Miriam still have a community of friends outside their door, and their children still reconnect with their own friends when they visit.
“People in cohousing don’t move as frequently because they’re committed to the community, so our children still have those close relationships when they come back to visit. It feels like home to them still, a place where they belong.”
If Howard and Miriam are fortunate enough to become grandparents in the future, their grandchildren will also seamlessly blend into life at WindSong.
Compass Cohousing Coming in spring 2024
Every cohousing community has its own personality and priorities, and Howard says he’s impressed with how Compass has established itself, even through the pandemic.
“The group has courageously kept going through the isolation of the pandemic, and bonded amazingly well because of that.”
There are many common values between cohousing communities, but one of the things Compass has prioritized is environmental sustainability and walkability. Howard says their relationship with the Township of Langley has also been remarkable — as with any new build there are many bylaws to follow, but the approval process with the town has been impressively smooth.
The building has just passed its fourth and final reading at Langley Council, and construction is expected to be complete by spring 2024. Compass Cohousing, is well over 60 per cent sold, but there are still a good variety of units on offer. To learn more, visit compasscohousing.com or email email@example.com.