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Group Formation 

Experience indicates that in order to foster a sustainable community spirit, a core group of future residents needs to be involved from the beginning of the process. This core group provides continuous feedback and input on what the collective is willing to commit to during the development of the cohousing community, and for the ongoing operational needs of the community once built.

Ottawa Cohousing will help you to find and form your core group. 

In considering which households may make for a good match, we look at the following key criteria:

  • Personal budgets, financial limitations and capacities

  • Type of community desired

  • Key tolerances and intolerances

  • Preferred types of amenities to be shared

  • Common values and interests

  • Healthy diversification

It will be up to each individual to affirm and commit (or not) to an Affinity Group, should they so choose. 

“Social Connectedness is not the cherry on the cake, it is the cake itself” 

- Pattti Rios, architect and urban studies for "Happy Cities"

We guide each Affinity Group through the process of design and policy-making during which members discuss and decide how they are going to live together; e.g. pets or no, who takes care of whom, format of common meals, shared resources, and so on, respecting privacy and personal space. During this period, Affinity Groups will determine their legal structure and financing. 

The membership of the Affinity Group may change.  In fact, chances are someone may need to bail before construction is complete, or the opportunity arises at the last minute to add a new household or two that are a perfect fit.  Buy Ins and Buy Outs are a common occurrence when forming a built community over a span of several years. 


Ottawa Cohousing guides the consideration of all foreseeable situations.  Each Affinity Group will collectively determine what rules and protocols they will follow consistently to deal with change.

TIMING: Working through the many group meetings may take approximately 8 to 12 months total, depending on the groups availability and speed at which they can collectively learn and prepare.  At the end of this period the community will have a the draft of their community manifesto to guide them and the fundamental skills needed to move successfully forwards together as a collective.

Established Cohousing Groups

Do you have your own Cohousing Group already assembled?

Super! Ottawa Cohousing can help you develop your cohousing community and advise you on any considerations you may have missed.  If you are looking for more members we may have suitable households within our Intake Roster.


Ottawa Cohousing community group living

Does the Affinity Group establish the Design Criteria for the development project that will become their cohousing community and home?

Yes and No. There are two major things to consider before establishing cohousing: the fundamentals of cohousing and the development industry.  The Design Criteria for dwelling units and shared spaces are established by each specific Affinity Group, but they must work within the development limitations of the site, development law, building codes, and budgets. These limitations inform the design just as much as the Affinity Group's criteria.


The project will be built to comply with Ottawa's Official Plan and zoning bylaw, the Ontario Building Code and all other governing regulations. It will have the legal structure of a condominium with a unique mix of owner occupied and rental units. In order to secure financing, it will need to have similarity to other condos, just with a greater proportion of common spaces and a significant design nuance to allow for its community intent. The project will sell at market rates and each unit will have to carry it's share of the cost of common spaces.

Each Affinity group will have additional specific Design Criteria, pertinent to their group, but all groups under Ottawa Cohousing will have the following general criteria:

  • Each private residence will contain a kitchen, bath, living/dining area and bedroom(s)

  • A common amenity space will include (at a minimum) a kitchen area, a dining room, and mail boxes

  • Additional indoor common space, programmed as per needs of the Affinity Group

  • Outdoor space designed to be shared

  • Some semi-private outdoor spaces (decks, patio, balconies, garden beds)

  • Parking (less parking than typical condos, space for car share parking as possible)

  • Spaces designed to allow for casual interactions (both indoors and out)

  • A delightful, welcoming place that feels like home

So what does all this mean then? What will the place be like? What's left to design? How will it look and feel?

Design work will be divided into two phases: Schematic Design & Design Development.

Schematic Design Phase

Ottawa cohousing group work communityork

In this phase, our general criteria and your Intake Forms provide the necessary information to complete the schematic design for any site. Urban lots are tight, and schematic design is very much dictated by building codes, budget constraints, and by-laws. The architect will consult with City planning staff and industry experts to design the volume and massing for a proposed cohousing development.  An experienced project manager or developer will provide cost estimates for the development.

The Affinity Group will be presented with potential options for the cohousing development on the identified site.

The schematic design provides an analysis of what could be built, but not what it would look or feel like.  It's pretty dry and impersonal, but a necessary first step to make sure that a site can meet the basic criteria for the group. This material is necessary to make the hard choice... is this the right site?  Are we all in?

TIMING: The schematic design phase can move slowly, waiting for the right piece of property.  But it moves very quickly once properties are up for sale.  

Design Development Phase

Once a site is selected, and one of the options chosen, work can begin on designing the look and feel of the development. This is the fine tuning. THIS is the fun stuff!!

In this phase, the architect will facilitate the Affinity Group in making decisions about the size and organization of the shared amenity spaces, the precise number and size of all units and the number of bedrooms in each, balconies, exterior features, the materials, fixtures, finishes and design details.


The architect will complete the design work, and provide the group with a site plan, building plans, unit plans, common area plans, and a 3D model of the outside of the building and key interior shared spaces.

Schematic Design ottawa cohousing

TIMING: The design development phase takes approximately 2 months and 4 group meetings to complete.

"Most of us know what we don't want… but what we do want is pretty fuzzy" - Radical Resthomes
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