Almonte considers co-housing development

A co-housing complex in Ottawa with a communal living space, shared backyard and group meals could be the model for a new development in Almonte.

Group looks to existing complex in Ottawa, which includes communal area for neighbours to gather

Steve Fickand Signy Fridriksson in the communal living and dining unit at Terra Firma, Ottawa's co-housing complex. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

A co-housing complex in Ottawa with communal living spaces, shared backyards and group meals could be the model for a new development in Almonte.

A group visited the fenceless community called Terra Firma on Drummond Street in Old Ottawa East for inspiration.

The concept of collaborative or co-housing was developed in Denmark in the 1960s.

Terra Firma began in 1997. Seven units were reconfigured from row houses to include a communal dining and living area. 

"We're not related by blood but by commitment, and it's great," said Signy Fridriksson, one of about 20 residents of Terra Firma.

Neighbours pitch in to babysit, tend to the garden and take turns cooking shared meals — every Wednesday and Sunday.

 "We share a hot tub and a sauna. There's a commitment to work together but also play together," Fridriksson said.

Units are owned by individuals or families, and the complex is governed like a condo corporation. Neighbours work together to resolve conflicts, using mediation when necessary. Fridriksson said the owners haven't changed in 16 years.

"They talk about rebuilding the village so it's much more involved in being connected in a way that we often aren't in cities," she said. 

Jeff Mills organized a meeting to discuss building a similar co-housing complex in Almonte. His retirement plan is to downsize and live among close friends — of all ages.

"I like the idea of diversity. I have a number of friends who are single and others who are older, frail seniors," he said. "To me co-housing is what a neighbourhood should be."