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This article was published 15/7/2019 (672 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of Winnipeggers with dreams of building Manitoba’s first co-housing development will hold a public information meeting on Tuesday in an attempt to attract like-minded residents for a future community in the city.
Co-housing, a practice that hails from Denmark, involves a self-financed group of private homeowners who build homes with some shared spaces and an eye to friendly, community-oriented living.
The practice is "as much about an attitude and process as it is a housing type," Prairie Rivers Cohousing member Frances Woolison said, speaking on the group’s behalf.
"It’s always created by a private group of people who want more community in their lives, but they also want to be homeowners," she said.
Private ownership sets co-housing apart from other communal housing models such as co-operatives, which usually involve government financing, and co-living, which generally describes groups of people living together in a shared home. Woolison, a 72-year-old retired school teacher, got interested in co-housing after hearing a documentary about it on CBC Radio.
"It just struck a chord with me, that it’s the way I would like to live," she said.
"In other words, I’d like to live in a modern-day village where everybody knows each other and is friends with each other and trusts each other, so that it’s a safe place for kids, it’s a safe place for seniors, and there’s a real spirit of co-operation among the people who live there."
Prairie Rivers Cohousing was founded in late 2016, and Woolison said six households have joined the initiative to create a diverse, intergenerational co-housing community in Winnipeg.
"There are a couple of working single women. There are retirees, there’s a young mother with two young sons, so we all have different backgrounds but we all feel the need of living close to neighbours who we can trust and socialize with," she said.
"My husband and I have lived in our same house, and we love it, for 35 years," Woolison said of her home in River Heights.
"But I was thinking yesterday, there wasn’t a single neighbour that I could go and knock on the door and ask to borrow something, really, or if they could look out for my cat or something. It’s just not a close-knit neighbourhood in that respect."
The group is considering hiring a co-housing consultant from California to help turn the theoretical community into reality. Ultimately, Woolison hopes roughly 50 people will get involved in the project, and expects the community could be attractive to people dissatisfied with their current lifestyle.
"They’re lonely in apartments, or they’re... struggling to maintain family homes that they no longer really need," she said. "Or they’re people who are interested in the larger community around them. We find that the people in co-housing are often actively involved in local politics and outreach and so on."
Ultimately, Woolison expects the community to include shared spaces such as a common kitchen and a common dining room, where residents might cook for each other and share meals a few times a week. Many co-housing communities are purpose-built, she explained, and creating the co-housing community will involve raising capital to finance the project.
"So what we’re hoping to do is attract people who are interested in learning more about what we’re doing and hopefully, eventually, feeling comfortable investing their money and working with us to create this community."
If Prairie Rivers Cohousing is successful in creating a co-housing community in Winnipeg, Woolison envisions a location relatively close to downtown, where residents can walk or use public transportation to get where they need to go.
In practice, Woolison said that might mean older neighbourhoods, such as St. Boniface, St. Vital, Wolseley or Fort Rouge — but ultimately, those decisions will be made by the group.
"Nothing’s been decided, because we need the people who will make it possible," she said.
The information session will be held at 7 p.m. on July 16, at the Church of Christ at 170 St. Mary’s Rd.