Cameron White and his wife, Alejandra, are not from the Lower Mainland but are passionate about finding a safe and sustainable place to live where their young family can thrive.
When Cameron read about Compass Cohousing’s developing community in the Willowbrook area of Langley, it seemed to tick all their boxes.
“It had everything I always wanted in a place to live,” he explains.
Currently, the couple and their two small children live in Kitsilano. However, with the arrival of their daughter, it was time for more space. Luckily, cohousing posed an ideal scenario.
“You get the best of both worlds,” Cameron says. “Neither of us is from Vancouver. Neither of us has family or grew up here. So, it’s nice to have that built-in community while still having our own beautiful condo complex to live in.”
Compass Cohousing’s main pedestrian entrance. Rendering: Ankenman Marchand Architects.
What is cohousing?
When you hear the term ‘cohousing,’ there are often misconceptions about what it means.
“It’s tricky because when we say ‘cohousing,’ [people] associate it with co-ops right away,” Cameron says.
However, unlike co-op housing, each member of a cohousing community owns their home as part of a strata. In this way, it's just like any other condo complex where residents can qualify for a mortgage, build equity over time, and sell their homes when they choose to.
Like all cohousing communities, Compass will also forgo the usual developer's profit and apply those savings to creating generous shared amenities to promote cohesion and collaboration within the community.
Such shared amenities will include a common house at the heart of the community, which will contain a dining hall, a gourmet kitchen, guest rooms for out-of-town visitors, workspaces, a children's playroom, a laundry room, an exercise room and more.
Because of these shared amenities, people expect to be comfortable in slightly smaller homes.
“I think we’ll use the common space to offset us having to have a bigger house,” Cameron explains.
“Especially being from Chile, having the guest room for [visitors] is great,” Alejandra adds.
The couple is also looking forward to community dinners in the common house.
“I think it would have been really neat, especially during the last few years,” Alejandra says.
Compass, like most cohousing communities, is open to residents of all ages, creating a more diverse population.
“It almost reminds me of a small town,” Alejandra says.
“I’m originally from Chile, so it reminds me of the small towns where my grandparents lived where you knew everyone around you, all of the neighbours. You still have your independence and privacy, which is important, but you also get the advantages of that community.”
View of Compass Cohousing’s common house from the courtyard. Rendering: Ankenman Marchand Architects.
The goal for Compass Cohousing is to create a community of people of all ages and backgrounds focused on living lives that are more convenient, fun, practical, interesting and sustainable than they would be in typical housing developments.
“I think it’s cool to have kids grow up in an environment where there are different types of people and different age groups,” Cameron explains. “I think it’s good to raise them in a community like that. It will probably give them a lot of social skills they might not otherwise gain as easily.”
The village-type structure also adds an increased level of safety, which Alejandra says supplies her with more peace of mind when it comes to their children.
She describes having neighbours and a community around them growing up, as well as having friends their age, as a definite plus, explaining how it makes her feel more "comfortable letting them go play outside without worrying, where I may not feel as comfortable in a bigger city where I don't really know the neighbours around."
As an added safety precaution to protect children within the community, Compass has separated vehicles from people by keeping cars in an underground parking lot. Ground level guest parking is also kept apart from outdoor community living spaces.
Cohousing developments are spaces where community, safety, and the sharing of skills and resources are top priorities. The emphasis on community acts as a direct antidote to loneliness and isolation.
“It’s a small community where you can get help from anyone,” Alejandra states. “If you ever need anything, you can just go knock on the next door.”
Compass Cohousing is not yet move-in ready. However, construction is set to begin soon. To learn more, visit compasscohousing.com/start-here.