What is cohousing?

Cohousing neighbourhoods are designed to combine the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living. Members participate in the planning, design, and development of the community so that directly meets their needs. In the process of working together, residents build strong relationships and bonds that will support them in the ongoing community.

How did cohousing get started?

The concept emerged in Denmark about 50 years ago. It was introduced to North America by the architect team of Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant with the publication in 1988 of their book Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. Since then, well over 150 cohousing communities have been completed in North America. There are currently 13 in Canada, with many more in various stages of development. The concept is quickly spreading throughout the world.

What is the purpose of the West Wind Harbour Cohousing group?

We are a group of people who have made the decision to plan our future rather than have it planned for us.  We have secured a 1.5-acre oceanfront site at 6603 Sooke Road for the purpose of developing housing that fits our requirements on many different levels.  It is community initiated, affordable, environmentally friendly, and socially/culturally supportive. Our goal is to flourish through mutual support in community.

What will the community be like? 

We have an incredibly innovative team of professionals from Canadian Development Cohousing (CDC), helping us to design a dynamic community that suits the requirements of the membership.  West Wind Harbour Cohousing will have 34 homes.  Each one is autonomous with over 7000 sq.ft. of common space including gym, guest rooms, workshop, art rooms, library, boat dock, roof deck, not to mention incredible views of the Salish Sea and mountains.

Will I own my own home? 

Once the development is complete, individual member households will purchase their units.  The legal status will change to ‘strata title’, and each household will own their own home together with a share of the common facilities.

What is it going to cost? 

Costs are approximately market rate. However, you also get the common areas and community that go along with cohousing.  To find out exact costs, please see the Unit Plans and Pricing page.

How long will it take? 

Move-in is scheduled for the summer of 2020.

What kinds of people live in cohousing? 

We come from very diverse backgrounds from every income level, family type and belief.  We have a common desire to take an active part in our community and a belief that connecting with our neighbours will enhance our quality of life.

Would I have privacy? 

Yes! Our members value privacy as much as social contact. It is essential to us that we have our own homes and private spaces.  A unique aspect of cohousing is that residents participate in a conscious process of creating a community that will reflect their values. Our members highly value privacy, so the design reflects our desire to provide a balance of privacy and community.

The following statement was taken from a CMHC study in 1997 called, Planning Cohousing:

“While the shared amenities are integral to cohousing, some believe privacy is more respected in cohousing communities than elsewhere. There can actually be increased privacy in cohousing because the common areas provide meeting places, guest spaces, rooms for socializing, etc., allowing individual dwellings to be places of privacy and retreat.”

Will children be welcome at West Wind Harbour? 

Yes! Children are very welcome and we have not set age restrictions.  Many of our future residents have grandchildren or other young people in their lives. While those of us involved in this project so far, are mostly in our 50s and 60s our neighbourhood is designed with attention for ageing well in community and that includes everyone!

Will pets be welcome at West Wind Harbour? 

Yes! Our pet policy allows for two pets per household.

What is a common house? 

We are fortunate that our common house at West Wind Harbour is a beautiful, west-coast designed family home.  It includes kitchen and dining areas, lounge, guestrooms, workshop, and office space as well as space for art rooms, library or whatever our members decide to include. We also have other common spaces including a dock, roof deck and commercial kitchen and dining area with a patio overlooking the Sooke Basin.  We expect these common spaces to be the heart of the community; a place for residents to share food, have meetings, celebrations, musical events, movies, yoga practice, workshops, and other activities that support the interests of community members.

Do members share meals together? 

Common activities—and particularly shared meals—can be important aspects of community life both for social and for practical reasons. Such activities, however, are always optional. In cohousing communities, residents typically share meals anywhere from a few nights a month to as many as several nights per week. It depends entirely on the wishes of the residents, and participation is up to each individual. Each home has its own kitchen, so participating in common meals is optional.

What is the legal structure during development? 

The “developer” is the cohousing group. We incorporated as a standard company.  This structure limits member liability, allows flexibility, and is most easily recognized by lending institutions. There is no profit to the corporation; homes are sold to members at cost; and the group funds equity for development and construction. The money to make the development happen comes from the cohousing members.

How do I become a member? 

Associate Membership is for a three-month period and costs $150.  It is a wonderful opportunity to fully understand the process.  Associate Members are able to access all the information and details of all decisions that have been made, and are encouraged to attend meetings to get to know and understand as much as possible about the community.  Through associate membership, individuals gain knowledge of the social and decision-making processes, as well as the legal, financial and organizational structures, and opportunities and risks associated with development. Please review our Membership Structure Overview or email info@westwindharbour.ca for further information.

How are members selected? 

Members tend to self-select.  All members must be able to afford to purchase a home and be willing and able to take on the responsibilities and obligations of equity membership.  They are required to complete Margaret Critchlow’s workshop ‘Is Cohousing for You?’. The three-month associate membership provides an opportunity to get to know the other members and decide whether this lifestyle appeals to you. Finally, a meeting with at least one of our equity members and a representative from Cohousing Development Consulting will clarify both your household’s and the community’s expectations and ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the processes, policies that have been set, and legal and financial responsibilities. Honest attention to these important issues results in a remarkably effective self-selection process.

Do I have to like everyone? 

In this world, it’s unlikely that we can all ‘like’ everything that other people do or say!  However, in a healthy and diverse community, people are expected to be tolerant and respectful toward others. Some people, of course, are very private individuals and may feel most comfortable with fewer close friendships; whereas, others will form friendships with most everyone in the community. As in other areas of life, individuals create their own experiences.

Can I expect free elder care or help if I get sick? 

As among any group of friends and neighbours, people help each other in informal ways; cohousing is envisioned as a community in which people are friendly and supportive to each other—especially in times of need. However, this support is always voluntary. Ongoing group care arrangements will be decided by the membership, and any particular ongoing care for individuals would be arranged privately. 

What is meant by the term “co-care”? 

Co-care is a model of neighbourly mutual support that can help reduce social isolation and promote positive, active ageing. It encourages independence through awareness that we are all interdependent. In a cohousing community, giving and receiving co-care is entirely voluntary. We may choose to support each other through such activities as doing errands, driving, cooking, or going for a walk with a neighbour. We believe that being good neighbours helps us age well in community and have fun doing it.

How much meeting time is involved? 

During the construction stage, we have two-day, monthly meetings. To participate in the decision making, it’s good to be there if possible. However, attendance at these meetings is not required and can be covered by Zoom (video conference calling), for people who are unable to be in Sooke each month and who want to participate. After move-in, meetings of the whole community will tend to be less frequent. For example, Harbourside Cohousing has half-day monthly council meetings. 

Is meeting attendance mandatory? 

No.  However, the best way for prospective members to meet the community is to attend the regularly held meetings. Relationships have been strengthened through discussion, by working together, and socializing.  We’ve found that working and making decisions together is a very effective way to build a cohesive community.  Although attendance at meetings is not mandatory; decisions made by the community, even in your absence, are binding.

What will be expected of me after the development is complete?

When the homes are built and the community is complete, members will work together to organize maintenance and ongoing upkeep duties. Monthly maintenance (strata) fees will be required and there will continue to be regular meetings concerning the running of the community and further decision-making where attendance, as usual will be optional, but recommended.

What if I change my mind and want to leave the group during the development phase? 

Associate members have made no major commitment and can easily leave the group at or before the end of the three-month period; however, the $150 fee is non-refundable. Equity members, however, have made a commitment to be a part of the community, and the group depends on this commitment for the success of the development. We encourage associate members to take some time to reflect on their decision before becoming equity members because the required minimum investment from equity members is non-refundable.

What if I want to sell my home after completion? 

Just like any other home, members who want to sell their unit need to find a buyer. However, because of the collaborative nature of cohousing, opportunities exist for marketing cohousing units in ways other than conventional real estate marketing methods. Each cohousing community typically has a long list of households interested in units that come up for rent or sale, and there are cohousing websites that also list rentals and sales.

How will the choice of units within West Wind Harbour be prioritized? 

Current equity members chose their units in the summer of 2018. The order of priority going forward is based on the date new households officially declare their intention to become equity members.

Are the best spots already taken? 

Absolutely not! Every home will have a superb view of sea and sometimes, mountains. We have a wide range of unit sizes, and each member household will choose the design that fits their needs.

Can I visit an existing cohousing community? 

Cohousing communities love to show off their living arrangements!  There are thirteen completed cohousing communities currently in Canada. Check the website at the Canadian Cohousing Network to contact individual communities and arrange for a tour. There are three completed cohousing communities on Vancouver Island. Our neighbour and cohousing big sister, Harbourside Cohousing, offers monthly tours.

What reference materials are available to learn about cohousing?

Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett’s book Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities is an excellent resource and will give you an overall view of what cohousing is about. The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living by Charles Durrett gives a more detailed description of how cohousing can support ageing in place. There are more and more online resources available, including the Canadian Cohousing Network, Canadian Senior Cohousing, Cohousing Development Consulting, and The Cohousing Company—to name just a few.

What is the village of Sooke like? 

Sooke village is the compact centre of a wider, coastal community that stretches north to Port Renfrew and beyond. The township itself borders Sooke Harbour and enjoys panoramic south- westerly views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. First Nations have lived off the natural abundance of the land and the sea in this area for millennia.

When migrant peoples arrived from Europe, other parts of North America, and elsewhere in the 19th century, they established important commercial logging, mining, and fishing industries. To these have been added communities of artisans, artists, and creative industry practitioners.

Sooke’s climate enjoys the temperate effects from prevailing southwesterly winds, the Japanese Current, and the rain shadow created by the Olympic Mountains. Because of these benevolent factors the southernmost part of Vancouver Island, where we live, is something of a geographical aberration, bringing us warm, dry summers and cool, damp winters. We rarely see snow.

The Sooke Basin, where West Wind Harbour will be situated, is a beautifully sheltered natural harbour. It is one of the most scenic, peaceful, and relatively untouched rural/urban places in North America. At our doorstep lies a region where wild creatures and the wilderness live in relative harmony with people— where we can watch hummingbirds, bald eagles, kingfishers, herons, and loons, and occasionally see bear, cougar, orca, and whales. Deer graze throughout the region—necessitating gardening as an act of cooperation with nature.

Sooke Basin is an area of enormous beauty—by any standards.

The website for Sooke’s municipal government can be found at: www.sooke.ca.  

You can find more information about Sooke, its amenities and its social, cultural, and recreational assets at visitor-oriented websites like:  www.hellobc.com or www.sooke.org

How do I get more questions answered?

Please do not hesitate to contact Kitty Elton, WWHC Community Building contact, if you have any further questions. info@westwindharbour.ca