Our concept is a purpose-built community that will facilitate “aging in community” for approximately 35 people. This cohousing community will be self-managed by residents who will know each other before they move in. They will participate in governance, volunteer work, and community living. Some support services will be available and residents will commit to neighbourly mutual support. Residents will share tools, bikes, boats, books, and other resources. Communal meals will be held about once a week.
The following principles will guide the planning:
- Autonomy of private dwellings with advantages of shared resources and community living
- Aging in community – giving and receiving co-care and participating in group activities
- Units that are affordable for seniors on fixed and moderate incomes
- Ecological sustainability in design and operations
- Self-management by residents
- Accessibility for persons with disabilities
Within the central core of Ottawa in a vibrant neighbourhood such as Centretown, the Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Sandy Hill, Old Ottawa East, Lowertown, New Edinburgh, Hintonburg, Wellington West or Westboro. The site must have good access to public transit and local amenities and services.
Our current plan is to build a 3-4 storey apartment building with 20-25 units consisting of bachelor, one, and two-bedroom apartments. The building will contain a common space with kitchen, dining room, offices, multi-use activity rooms and outdoor gathering spaces and gardens. The individual units will be modest with some common sitting spaces on each floor. There would be some parking spaces, with space for a shared car service, workshop, and bike storage.
There is a strong preference for accessible design, as well as “flex-design” of the individual units which would allow them to be easily modified over time to meet changing needs. Environmental sustainability is a priority and could be achieved through passive or active solar energy, environmental building techniques, and low water use.
Cohousing communities in Canada use and adapt a variety of housing structures depending on the province and members’ circumstances. We formed a non-profit organization – Convivium Cohousing for Seniors Incorporated – to plan and establish the new cohousing. Convivium is a member-based organization with people who are committed to participating in the planning and financing of the development. This organization is able make proposals, enter into agreements, and apply for funding. An equity housing co-operative will be formed to own the eventual housing.
- Older adults and seniors over 55 years of age
- Active seniors who will live independently until unable to do so
- A commitment to the cohousing lifestyle with its implication of co-care, some collective dining, self- governance, and volunteerism
- Willingness to be involved in the planning and making financial contributions to development costs before moving in
- With the financial capacity to pay housing costs
We currently have a waiting list for future members.
Planning began in spring 2015 under the Innovative Housing for Older Adults in Old Ottawa East Initiative, which was interested in developing housing for seniors in the new Greystone Village on Main Street. Two day-long workshops – one on Design and another on Finance and Ownership were held to involve future residents.
Convivium Cohousing for Seniors started in April, 2016 and signed up 51 members. There is a board of directors and four active committees – Design, Finance & Ownership, Supportive Services and Membership & Communications. Members meetings are held on a regular basis and special workshops deal with specific topics.
Although we have been able to have some professional consultants, most of the work has been done by volunteers. We receive development support from Cahdco and have an experienced lawyer.
In August 2016, the Regional Group offered to sell us a partially designed building on Greystone Village. The possibility of having a developer manage the planning and construction of a building was very appealing.
Undertaking the due diligence on this turnkey building taught us a lot and we have now invited other developers to submit proposals for a design-build turnkey development on a site in the central area of Ottawa.
We are aware that it will take some time after site selection and design before we can move in, but we will be creating our community in the meanwhile.