Co Housing Retrospective

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It’s odd the way things happen…We lived in a small co housing community in Vancouver from late 2001 until mid 2006, selling our unit about a year later. We  fell into our first apartment there, having been gently urged by a friend who often stayed in the building to visit a woman who rented her unit each winter when she volunteered in Africa. Our home is on the Sunshine Coast, a small rural community a 40 minute ferry ride from Vancouver, and weren’t looking for a place in the city, although we had both begun to work in Vancouver.

The funky looking building, consisting of town houses and apartments, had been built three years previously on a lot that at one time held three houses and a corner store. The community was a village unto itself, an oasis in the midst of city busyness, a place where you could visit with other residents in the laundry room, while reading the paper in the foyer sitting room, at common meals or in each others’ apartments. After the initial six months, still needing a place in the city, and wanting to stay in the co housing, we purchased a small, lovely apartment with a water view.

Living semi communally in a building with about twenty other families was a new experience, not at all like my small communal house in Guelph while I was a university student. For the most part it was very pleasant this enhanced neighbourhood of well educated, similarly minded folks.

The building was self managed, and until I stopped going and my partner continued on, to represent our unit, meetings were a frustrating experience for me…as a strong minded group of folks micro managed each aspect of running the building. My joke was that it took us three months to decide what toilet paper to buy for the common house washroom!

Recently we returned to “our” co housing for their 20th anniversary celebration, after being back in our small town for 12 years,  It felt very familiar, it was basically the same community, but in my recollection it was a friendlier place during our four and a half year stint there. Several of our friends were missing that day, both current and past residents of the building, but the ones who were there, folks who had established the co housing twenty years earlier, were happy to see us. Oddly, even though we were guests in their “home”, not one newer resident, arrivals after our time, said hello, or asked if I was a former resident, or a friend of someone in the building, to my disappointment.

It was a nostalgic feeling returning after so many years at such a special time. We felt at home, yet not at home. I’ll never forget my time living in co housing, and I’m sure my partner, Don, won’t either. We are very happy to be back in our own small house near the ocean, in our quiet but active community here on the Sunshine Coast of BC. Had we remained in Vancouver, we would have stayed in co housing.

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