Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of people live in a cohousing community?
Cohousing fits all kinds of people. In fact, most communities seek to have a diverse membership of residents. The common ingredient among members, is a willingness to be flexible and to work respectfully with others to foster community.
Do I lose my privacy living in community?
No, you have full control over how much you want to socialize and interact with others in your community. Your own unit is fully functional and private.
How much does the cost of cohousing compare to other types of housing?
Living in a cohousing community is similar in cost to comparable living in an individual home. Typically, cohousing residents find cost savings over time through the ability to share resources and amenities.
How is cohousing different from a commune or coliving?
Cohousing is not Coliving. In a cohousing community every household has their own fully functioning unit, much like a condo, apartment, townhouse, etc.
Will I own my home?
Yes, the majority of cohousing community residents are owners. Some may be tenants.
Is it a risky investment to commit to a cohousing development?
Cohousing communities are a stable form of housing and investment. Once established, they have wait lists of people who wish to join and purchase a unit. Like any new real estate investment, there is higher risk in the early stages of a developing group/community.
How will we all get along?
Members will have opportunity to partake in the part of the community that they are most interested in. Conflict resolution guidelines are pre-established to help members get through tricky situations if/when they arise.
Do I have to live in the same building as everyone else in the community?
No, not necessarily. What form and number of buildings are in the community will depend on the group’s desires, budget and the site that they are locating in.
What form of support do members of the community do for each other?
Support comes in many formats. Physical support might be occasional and/or frequent food prep and meal sharing, assistance with pets, watching over each others places when absent, childcare sharing, car sharing, emergency medical assistance, help to fix stuff, help with specific skills, etc. Support also comes in social forms like having someone to play with, have a social drink with, do homework with, commiserate with, garden with, or sit quietly with.
Can I share a garage or a shop with others?
Yes, there is opportunity to share many amenities and spaces with the other members in your community. What you decide to share together will depend on the priorities of the members collectively and the amount of space available.
How do we get everyone in the community to align on important living standards?
Everyone has their own personal philosophy, spiritual/religious beliefs, political and social points of view. These can be different in a cohousing community and in fact a certain amount of diversity makes for a richer experience and perspective for everyone. What community members DO need to have in common is respect for each others’ differences, and when opinions and beliefs intersect with operational and governance matters, members need to be flexible enough to reach an amicable balance that works for the whole community. Groups will typically form core values early in development, so that they have guiding principles that each member can stand behind and work towards.
What happens if one of my neighbours is a jerk?
When joining a cohousing community, each member is agreeing to community guidelines that have been developed by the members together. These guidelines include process steps for dealing with difficult members, those who are struggling to comply to the agreed upon rules, i.e. jerky behaviour.
If you simply don’t like someone in your community, you are not beholden to befriend them. However, you do need to show respect and be granted respect in return.
Who cleans the shared spaces?
Each community will determine how they want to handle the cleaning of the shared spaces; it may take the form of a roster of taking turns, per each use, an outside hire, or as one of the tasks as part of the whole shared maintenance plan, etc.
Is a cohousing community like a condominium?
Yes, each unit is privately owned, and the full property is co-owned by all the members. The majority of cohousing communities in North America are set up as legal condominiums (also called Strata).
The difference is that the shared components in a community are decided by the members and there is more intention to use them and spend time together. The operational management of the community is done equitably by all members using an agreeable decision-making system.
What happens if I want or need to move out of the community?
There will be pre-established move out conditions in your community agreement. If you own your unit you can typically sell it at the current market rate to any purchaser who qualifies for you, and is willing to partake in the community. Ottawa Cohousing will likely have a roster of potential purchasers waiting to join your community.
How does a cohousing group get started?
A group is formed when enough core members agree to commit to developing their community vision together.
How are members of a group selected?
Ottawa Cohousing reviews the needs, limitations, values and dreams of each client household. We will recommend a potential group for the client to ‘explore’. During the exploration phase, new members have a chance to get a feel for the group and if the ‘fit’ feels right.
Do I have to attend all the meetings?
No, but you need to make the effort to attend most of them.
Can I have a single detached house in a cohousing community?
Yes, it is possible to accommodate single detached houses in a cohousing community, however, these are unlikely in an urban community.
Can I rent my unit if I am away?
Yes, provided your tenants agree to and will partake in community life and governance.
How long does the development process take?
The development process from group start to move – in will vary. Typically, it will take between 3 to 4 years to complete.
What is the financial commitment and risk needed to join a cohousing group?
The risk depends on when you are joining the group. There is a higher risk of the group not being realized at the early stage of development. In the pre-site phase, core members will kick in some funds to cover development soft costs, in order to get the project off the ground. These contributions are part of their total unit cost.
Once the group has established a site and a building team, the financial risk and risk of the group collapsing are both much reduced. Overall, the financial commitment is similar to any new housing. A down payment of some sort is required to acquire a site and reserve a unit, with a full payment due at time of move in.
What are the pros and cons of joining a group before a site is selected and secured?
Joining a group in the development phase is very exciting! The benefit of being a core member is a greater voice and contribution towards decisions like those involved with site selection, building and community design, and community governance. You are also ensuring a spot for yourself in the final built community. Core members are a key to the successful development of a new community.
Early involvement requires a commitment of energy and time. There are some financial needs at the early stages of development that core members will share between them. Core members don’t pay more than anyone else but they will pay some of their unit cost earlier.