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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cohousing : an alternative approach to dwelling in British Columbia Williams, Dan


As elsewhere, British Columbia faces a challenge of how to provide livable, affordable, safe housing for all in the face of public funding cuts. Cohousing may provide one solution. This study begins by analyzing various definitions of cohousing, then develops, on the basis of European and local experiences, four definitional criteria for distinguishing cohousing from other shelter options. It is proposed that the term “cohousing” be limited to housing that involves: joint ownership of common property combined with individual equity in private dwelling units; resident group decisions on design, management, and the shape of common life among the residents; design that facilitates both private living and shared space; and reliance on mainly private rather than public resources. The study then analyzes the potential of cohousing to meet B.C. needs by considering the constraints and opportunities facing its development, under headings derived from the adopted definition of cohousing, namely: organization (legal/financial/group process), design, and government relations. The study primarily draws on interviews with leaders of cohousing projects and government officials related to housing, as well as literature on the experience of other countries with cohousing. Each chapter ends with a strategic checklist for planners in the public or private sphere to consider in their facilitation of cohousing. The concluding chapter draws the constraints and opportunities into the context of the possible future for cohousing in B.C.

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