VERNON - A local woman hopes to introduce a new way of living to Vernon.
It’s called co-housing, and Barbara Van Sickle is passionate about it. With a blend of private homes and common areas, co-housing neighbourhoods foster community, group decision making and the philosophy that many hands make light work.
“Socially, it’s much more healthy, environmentally we’re being much kinder to the planet and economically it’s more affordable,” Van Sickle says.
The concept of building co-housing communities or villages was born in Denmark in the 1960s and has since been adopted around the world. B.C. has 23 communities forming or already established co-housing neighbourhoods, and Van Sickle wants Vernon to be the next.
In a co-housing community you own your own house, and share common areas like gardens, workshops, exercise rooms, craft rooms, children’s play areas and guest quarters.
Van Sickle believes its a solution to the isolation many people experience.
“We’re building all these monstrous homes with gated communities, and gates around individual homes to keep people out,” she says. “With our advanced forms of communication such as texting, email and social media, we lose many personal face-to-face connections.”
She believes tight-knit co-housing communities can change that. While the concept is for people of all ages, Van Sickle believes it’s particularly beneficial for seniors.
“As a baby boomer I’m afraid that we’re going to be a huge burden on society when we all hit the more dependent stage at the same time and there will not be enough care facilities,” she says.
With neighbours helping neighbours, and group decision making, she says seniors can live happily outside of care homes.
Beyond the social benefits, co-housing also brings a greener way of living, Van Sickle says. Because of the shared common areas, individual homes can be built much smaller than conventional houses. Many groups incorporate an environmental mandate to their vision for the community, employing greener building techniques.
Additionally, co-housing offers numerous economic savings, Van Sickle says. From smaller spaces to heat and cool to shared lawnmowers, tools and vehicles — as well as resident handymen and women — there are lots of opportunities to save money by working together.
But it’s only a dream right now. Van Sickle needs to find a group of 15 to 25 like-minded families, couples or individuals who want to help build the community. She also needs to find a place to build, which could be tricky with current zoning bylaws restricting the number of households on a given piece of property. But Van Sickle believes it can, and will happen with the right people.
“Everything is completely a group decision, they decide how they would like to live, how green they want to live, and where they want to live,” Van Sickle says. “This isn’t just a piece of real estate you’re buying, it’s a way of life.”
Van Sickle is welcoming anyone interested in finding out more about co-housing to attend an information meeting Saturday, Mar. 28 at 2:30 p.m. at the Vernon library. You can also check out the Canadian Co-housing Network for more information.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.