Qualicum Beach has duelling cohousing projects

A society was formed this year to coordinate and enable two ongoing and unique housing efforts

There could soon be competing cohousing projects in Qualicum Beach, as the Livewell Cohousing project gets out to an early lead over two long-simmering local projects.

“One of our mandates is to promote cohousing in Qualicum Beach. However, we did not anticipate having duelling cohousing projects,” said Jan Wilson, a member of the Qualicum Beach Cohousing Society (QBCS).

The QBCS was formed this year to coordinate and enable two ongoing efforts, an urban project currently looking for a downtown location and a semi-rural project focused on the Valterra property on Laburnum Road.

Gary Morrison, president and founder of the Vancouver based Livewell, describes cohousing as “physically and legally the same as a townhouse strata project, socially it is a more community oriented spirit like cooperative housing.”

They recently secured a different property on Laburnum and said the main difference from buying a house in a strata development is that people in a cohousing development are involved in the planning from the earliest stages and the developer is more of a facilitator to help them build what they want. He said that while there are private residences, there is also usually more extensive common facilities, which are up to the residents, but can include things like a dining room, children’s play rooms, workshops and vegetable gardens.

The common spaces are key to developing a community “for social and practical reasons,” he said, calling it a more European style of living.

Ruth Adler, of the QBCS semi-rural committee, said they are worried about the competing visions in the small town, and said cohousing is usually more of a grassroots concept, “it’s the dream of the people in the community, not a developer’s dream parachuted in.”

The QBCS Valterra Village proponents are hosting an open house this weekend and next month they’re bringing in Ronaye Matthew of CDC Cohousing Development Consulting, who they call “the foremost cohousing development expert in B.C.”

“Ronaye has brought many existing cohousing communities along the path from concept to reality, she has an unbroken track record,” Adler said.

“Cohousing is popular because it is about community, knowing your neighbours, sharing common facilities. The Valterra site is in the town but it offers enough land for big gardens and orchards as a well as for a common house that can support the activities of every age group,” she continued. “For example, a cohousing common house often includes shared guest rooms, one of which can be converted into a suite for an on-site care worker to support ageing in place. The community chooses the priorities because we are the developers.”

The QBCS free open house introduction runs 1-4 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 19 at Rotary House, 211 Fern Road West.

On Nov. 21 Matthew will share her cohousing experiences, followed by an in-depth workshop over the following two days. Contact aerie@xplornet.ca to register. Visit www.cohousingconsulting.ca/index.html for more on Matthew. For more information on the projects visit www.LiveWellcohousing.ca and www.valterravillage.ca.

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