Here are some ideas for getting started. The sequence may vary according to your situation.
1. Learn About Cohousing
Immerse yourself in the Canadian Cohousing Network (CCN) website. Read about us, about cohousing, look at our resources directory, check out all the forming and existing communities linked on our communities page, learn what to do if you’re interested and how to contact us. Discover cohousing by accessing the resources on the CCN website.
2. Reach Out
Contact friends and associates. Use free or low cost advertising to let the larger community know about you (for example: advertise in a local community newsletter, launch a Meetup group or some other outreach tool, create a simple website, become a member of the CCN – see cohousing.ca/membership).
3. Host A Meeting
You don’t have to know all the answers; it’s collaborative learning! Creating community is about inviting people to find out more, gauging if they are interested in the concept and encouraging them to participate. Providing information and helping potential members feel welcome are the most important ingredients.
4. Visit Established Cohousing Communities
Each cohousing community has a unique size, location, architectural style and vibe. Visit established communities to inspire your forming group and ground your visions in reality. Each community has a website with its tour details.
Canadian communities are listed here: cohousing.ca/communities
The US has about ten times as many cohousing communities as Canada, so you might want to visit American communities too. cohousing.org/directory
For organized group tours in the US see cohousing.org/events.
5. Facilitate And Decide
How you facilitate meetings and manage decision-making strongly influences who will stay involved. Learn and practice collaborative decision-making protocols and processes. Check out these websites for more information:
6. Know Yourselves
Clarify and articulate your intention, vision and mission. Create written statements with which you can all agree. A clear and concrete statement of shared intention or project objective will help clarify your purpose, inform others what you are about, and provide a foundation to build on. Things you need to talk about include:
- What is the main purpose or intention for wanting to do this?
- What is the desired form and character of the community (townhouses, apartments, single-family homes, number and size of units) and what are the desired attributes?
- Who do you want to attract (singles, couples, families, seniors)?
- When do you want this to happen (what is your timeline)?
Check out Kavana Tree Bresson’s visioning document for more ideas about how to do this.
7. Commit Your Cash
Identify who’s willing to spend their time, energy and money to create your community. Collect a small fee to cover meeting expenses such as food, child-care, room rental. Open a bank account. Keep expenses low as there’s no guarantee yet of a development.
8. Make It Happen
Select a geographical locale and determine if your members can afford to live there.
Work with a realtor to identify some possible sites; talk with a planner at your local municipality re: zoning to find out what land use designations could support a cohousing development.
9. Hire A Professional
Hire a professional to help you prepare a feasibility study. The feasibility study is a critical starting point for the development that should clearly identify challenges, opportunities and next steps for moving forward. It should include a financial plan and development pro forma that estimates the cost for a home in the completed community. Cohousing professionals can include architects, developers, facilitators, development consultants, marketers, trainers, and others. Discover how the professionals listed on the CCN website can assist your progress. You can consult CCN’s list of professional services.