Manitoba

'A win-win situation for singles': Co-housing idea taking off in Winnipeg

Imagine living in a tight-knit housing development that strikes a balance between community and privacy. Winnipeg could soon have one if a co-housing idea comes through.

Information session about the concept to be held Tuesday night, five families already interested

Above, Harbourside, Canada’s second co-housing community for seniors, is seen in Sooke B.C. The idea to have co-housing will be explored further at an information session in Winnipeg Tuesday night. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Imagine living in a tight-knit housing development that strikes a balance between community and privacy. Winnipeg could soon have one if a co-housing idea comes through.

Co-housing is where a group of residents live together in individual condo-like units but share things like occasional meals, tools and perhaps most importantly a sense of community.

The communities are designed by residents before they're built and always have shared spaces with decisions made by consensus. Residents can share things like special kitchen tools or lawn mowers for example.

Members of a co-housing community in East Liberty, PA work in a communal garden in this 2012 photo. (The Associated Press)

"That's always the first question and sometimes we start out by saying it's not a commune and it's not a co-op. Co-housing is a lifestyle model. It's not an ownership model," said Frances Woolison, founder of the Prairie Rivers Cohousing group.

Woolison started looking into the co-housing idea about two years ago after hearing a documentary on CBC about the concept.

"It just sort of struck a chord with me and I thought I think that's the way I'd like to be living in my more senior years." Woolison said coming home as a senior to a meal is something that sounded attractive to her.

"It just seems to be a win-win situation for singles who are experiencing social isolation."

Environmentally green 

She said co-housing communities are usually environmentally green and the plan for Winnipeg would follow that.

"We hope to build to a highly energy-effective level," Woolison said.

She points to her mom, who lost friends as she aged over the years, and said she doesn't want to end up in a similar situation. For the last couple of years, she's been doing research into co-housing and visited 10 of the communities in other provinces to see them first hand.

She said five families in Winnipeg are interested in the idea but they need about 15 families to come together so they can purchase land and turn the idea into reality.

The goal is to create the co-housing community somewhere within five kilometres from Portage and Main and have it up and running within the next two to three years. More details about the concept will be shared at an information session Woolison and others in the group hope will be well attended on Tuesday night.

"People are very interested. In most cases they've never heard of it or they have misconceptions about it."

The session starts at 7 p.m. and will take place at 170 St Mary's Road. 

With files from Shannah-Lee Vidal

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