Ann Knowles wants to know her neighbours a lot better.
She’s hoping that a co-housing development in Windsor could do just that.
A community kickoff meeting was held at the Super 8 in Windsor on March 24 to introduce more people to the idea of co-housing, with approximately 20 people in attendance.
“The developer usually designs and builds homes and then you move in and try to make friends and connections, which sometimes doesn’t go very well,” Knowles said. “We’re trying to do things the other way around, working together to build and design it with professional help and then when we move in, we’re already good friends and neighbours.”
The residents of a cohousing development would jointly own the land and common buildings, as well as their own individual homes. Knowles says this style of living incentivizes sharing of resources, like tools and leads to activities like joint meals.
The goal is to have a tight-knit, resilient community that looks after each other.
Knowles started the Windsor group in 2017 after she realized she needed to think about how she wanted to live in her retirement years.
“I kept talking to my family and friends about it and finally they said ‘well why don’t you just do it?’” she said.
In the first meeting, which she hosted at her home, 18 people came. That showed her that she wasn’t alone in wanting to pursue this idea.
Knowles and her core group of proponents have already begun looking at potential pieces of land in the Windsor area and have had preliminary talks with municipal planning departments and other levels of government for funding opportunities.
Windsor Mayor Anna Allen has publicly supported the idea.
Anna Horsnell, who lives in Halifax but is looking to come back to her hometown, came to the presentation to learn more about co-housing and said it’s definitely something she’d consider.
“I think there’s a tremendous amount of people, in a certain age group especially, who are considering this now,” Horsnell said. “I love this idea of working together and creating a community.”
“It’s kind of funny because, in a way, this is taking things back to how they used to be,” she added.
She’s hoping a co-housing option will be available sooner rather than later so that she can start planning ahead.
“I’m definitely interested in doing this, I just need to figure out the specifics,” she said. “If it’s possible within the next five years, then definitely.”
However, not all were convinced that the idea was right for them.
Gwen Salter said she has concerns that the costs of cohousing could balloon, especially if everyone is expected to share the burden of maintaining a common house and the property.
“You’re always going to be on the hook for repairs, for the roof, if anything needs to be replaced, any sidewalk work or road repair,” Salter said.
She also said she’d be more interested in the possibility if it was limited to seniors, but wouldn’t be a fan of sharing the development with children.
“Don’t get me wrong, my family lives locally and both have young families and I love them dearly, however, as I’m ageing I don’t want to be listening to kids all the time,” she said. “That’s nothing against young families, it’s just not for me.”
She did say she was happy to learn more about the idea and would like to go visit one of the communities in person to see how they run.
Co-Housing has been well established in Europe and certain parts of Canada and the U.S., particularly on the West Coast.
More information on the Windsor initiative can be found at www.windsorcohousing.com