Housing crisis

Kingston cohousing group hopes to ease housing crisis and loneliness

A cohousing community in Vancouver BC Image submitted.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated social isolation for most people, but especially those who live alone.

The profound effects of social isolation and loneliness on the human brain have been linked to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, decline cognitive, Alzheimer’s disease. , and even death, according to the American National Institute on Aging.

Enter cohousing, a type of collaborative housing that attempts to overcome the alienation of modern housing, where few people know their neighbors and there is little sense of community.

Cohabitation combines the autonomy of compact, self-contained private accommodations with the benefits of spacious, shared community amenities which typically include a large dining room, kitchen, recreational spaces, meeting rooms, children’s play areas , guest rooms, workshops and gardens. Co-housing neighborhoods tend to offer environmentally friendly designs with a pedestrian orientation and have documented lower vehicle use than conventional neighborhoods.

The Canadian Cohousing Network (CCN), formed in 1992 in British Columbia, is a registered non-profit organization that promotes the creation of cohousing communities as a model of sustainable development by raising public awareness of cohousing and bringing people together to form communities.

Locally, Lesley Donald is a spokesperson for Kingston Cohousing, a group of like-minded people who would like to see cohousing become a more natural way of living in Kingston, and perhaps a way to alleviate the housing crisis.

“Kingston is an interesting city because we have a very large population of seniors, explained Donald. “I happen to live in the Lakeside District, west of Kingston, and I’m pretty typical of my neighborhood: I’m a widow and I live alone in a family-sized house. There are many people in my neighborhood in the exact same situation. We are blocking family homes that families could move into because there is nowhere to go. »

She pointed out that even if people have equity in a home, they may not be able to afford one of the high-end retirement homes. And many people she knows wouldn’t choose to live in for-profit nursing homes: “I definitely wouldn’t want to live in one. My next door neighbor, who was 85, moved into one, and she described it to me as going back to high school…You’re stuck dealing all day with people you maybe feel like you have nothing in common, and you eat all your meals with them. It’s just not an attractive environment.

Kingston Cohousing believes that Kingston is an ideal location for a cohousing project as there is a significant amount of vacant provincial and federal land in the city. Additionally, according to recent census figures, Kingston has more than 20,000 seniors who live alone, at a time when elder care services are in dire demand.

The group also believes co-living aligns with all of Kingston’s current strategic priorities: climate action/intensification, healthy citizens, vibrant spaces, age-friendly city, diversity and affordability. Additionally, Kingston Cohousing’s vision and mission aligns well with those set out in Kingston’s Housing and Social Services Report 2021, which emphasizes the benefits of community partnerships to meet the housing needs of the city.

Kingston Cohousing hopes to create a community of up to 30 modest private dwellings with shared indoor and outdoor spaces, with a goal of occupancy within the city limits by 2028. Residents will fund and occupy small, self-contained units, while by sharing a common home and resources.

“Co-housings are typically high-density and energy-efficient,” Donald said. “We aim to showcase innovations in green building and to design and promote an eco-friendly community with high walking and cycling scores, access to public transport, shared electric vehicles, community gardening, a local food supply and minimal waste.”

However, cohabitation is not just for the elderly. Donald stressed that it provides a new option for young singles and families struggling to enter the housing market; in fact, he relies on them. “We seek to create multi-generational communities because research shows that these are the communities that thrive best. And when you bring, for example, young families, there is a sharing of resources. The younger ones can mow the lawns, shovel the snow, and do the heavy lifting, and the older ones can help with childcare, bookkeeping, things people don’t have time to do when they’re working. full time, of course.

She continued, “To ensure that mature members of the community can age in place, we hope to use models like Oasis Senior Supportive Living to maintain resident health and thereby reduce the burden on publicly funded care services. To attract young people and families, we are exploring market value rental options.

The community will intentionally be diverse, Donald said, welcoming people of varying ages, backgrounds and abilities. and means. They are open to the possibility of sharing their site with affordable housing, daycare or other compatible community programs.

Donald said Kingston Cohousing would like to actively engage with all levels of government and other community partners, as fellow citizens sharing the common goal of lasting solutions to Kingston’s housing crisis.

For more information or to get in touch with the organization, visit the Kingston Cohousing website. Click to see a nearly completed project in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and a proposed co-housing community for Prince Edward County in a vacant school.