Cohousing for Renters: One Resident Shares Her Experiences — Lessons from #COHOCON2019

The recent CohoCon (National Cohousing Conference) brought together cohousing residents, architects, builders, and consultants to talk about the present and future states of the industry. We were so inspired by all of the different people we met throughout the event, that we wanted to bring back some of their insights. Over the next few weeks, look out for videos from the conference both here and on our social media pages.

We loved hearing from renters and professionals, passionate about cohousing, during the course of CohoCon. We also loved learning about the different experiences each person brought to their communities. Since people often think of cohousing as the purview of homeowners, we valued speaking to Rachel, a young renter who lives with the Vancouver Cohousing community and hearing her perspective.

From their website:

“Vancouver Cohousing consists of 29 privately owned, fully equipped homes plus 2 rental units, in addition to a large and beautiful common house and outdoor common areas.”

What is Cohousing Like As a Renter?

The following is a transcript of our interview with Rachel, lightly edited for clarity.

So I live in a community in Canada, in BC, called Vancouver Cohousing. I've been there for about four years now. I moved in about a month after the community moved in. I heard about it because I was interested in different housing models, and a room came up for rent.

I didn't even think that I could be participating in that type of community, but when that opportunity came up, I met with the people and was really excited about living in, actually, a sort of co-householding or a shared community. So I live in a four bedroom with a couple with a baby, and another roommate. So we all share that house together within cohousing.

But our community also has several rentals that are covenant rentals; the city requires to have two of those. They're sort of owned by the ownership of the community.

How do you participate as a renter?

I mean I've been really interested in community and cohousing in general. So I've been really, really excited about that. I would say that there's not really any difference between a renter or an owner, other than I might not go to some of the financial decision meetings necessarily, or have much of a stake in those.

But I'm still a really active participant of the community, we do meals four times a week, each one of us cooks and cleans once a month, and so we all participate in that and are part of different committees and other things.

What committees are you involved in?

So I'm involved in the external committee, because I'm really interested in research and other things. So I've met with a lot of external folks to talk more about cohousing, and how to make that happen.

Then also the social committee piece, which involves a lot of impromptu parties, karaoke nights sometimes, just general sort of fun things that we do in our community.

Has bringing renters in brought more young people like you into the community?

Yeah, for sure. So actually I live with one of my landlords, and she co-bought that unit, the four bedrooms, specifically so that people like myself could live there. Which is a really neat idea, because it's not something that would be accessible to me otherwise. I moved in at a time where I was doing my graduate studies, and so as a really young person with student loans, I couldn't really afford to buy into a community like that.

I mean, our rent is not, it's not like it's more expensive than other people that I know that are sharing homes, or you have a roommate, you're living together. It's very accessible to someone like me, and gives me this really unique opportunity to be part of the community as well. So I love it!