Our Urban Village, a Vancouver Cohousing Community

Single retiree finds community

Kathy Sayers
Kathy Sayers and her grandson

Like many people who eventually wash up on the shores of cohousing, I had been feeling for a long time that the way I was living didn’t make sense. I’m an introvert, so I wasn’t unhappy with my singular life, really, but I felt something was missing. I had loving daughters and a great circle of friends, but little sense of community.

I agreed with Grace Kim in her popular 2017 TED Talk on cohousing: we are increasingly isolated. Few of us see even our oldest friends more than once a month. Few of us break bread with people we like on a regular basis. Few of us really know more than one or two of our neighbours.

I recognized, eventually, that I had a longing for frequent, casual contact with friendly neighbours and for sharing celebrations and concerns with people who really knew me. THAT’S what was missing.

The question was how to fill in the missing piece.

Nearly every one of my friends, especially those living alone, has tossed out the idea of living together — maybe sharing a big house with others or buying land and building cottages. They all quickly retreated, though, afraid of losing privacy and suspecting they were too set in their ways to mesh with others.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wanted to live in a community that had more range than just people my age. I wanted a multi-generational community. I wanted neighbours who had similar values, but who were different ages, had varied interests, and had new perspectives. I wanted to have the privilege of seeing kids I knew well grow up. I was making the tall order of what I wanted even taller.

Then, I had a chance coffee with a member of Vancouver’s newest (and only) cohousing community 6 years ago. I knew right away that cohousing might be a way to fill in my missing piece.

Eventually, I joined 3 other families to create Our Urban Village. Over the last 5 years, we’ve experienced the roller coaster ride that every community goes through, and some spectacular challenges that were all our own. We’ve found a terrific developer with land but we lost many of our members due to the unprecedented rise in housing prices in one year (almost doubling!).

We’ve rebuilt our community now and will be breaking ground soon. Looking around the room at the faces of neighbours at a recent community meeting, I’m delighted we persevered.