Our Urban Village, a Vancouver Cohousing Community

Tomo and OUV — a bit of history

By Christine Rondeau

In 2017 Our Urban Village began a partnership with innovative developers, Tomo (formerly known as Take Root) to build a cohousing community using a model that hadn’t been tried before in North America.

OUV’s founders were struggling to find a way to build cohousing in one of North America’s priciest housing markets. When the cost of a 33’ X 150” lot hit 3 million dollars, we struggled to find families to pay 6-10 million dollars just for the land for our project. Could we partner with a trusted developer who already had land and a vision to create a new kind of community in Vancouver?

In the meantime, quite independently, Tomo was looking for a way to add a community aspect to a project they were envisioning on two small lots on Vancouver’s vibrant Main Street. They were building their business model around the concept that sustainability, affordability, and community should be the basis of multi-family housing projects. They already knew how to incorporate building practices to address sustainability and affordability. But they were struggling how to make their project feel like a community.

When urban research guru Charles Mongomery, author of the bestselling book Happy City, introduced OUV to Tomo’s young visionaries Mark and Leslie Shieh, we knew from the first meeting that we had a match that could work.

Mark and Leslie proposed we call our building Tomo House. Tomo stands for “together more” which they thought captured what we were trying to achieve. As our project went forward, Tomo began to hire exceptional professionals as additional partners to make our project a success.

Along the way, cohousing lite and Tomo house have become a project of note. We’ve been featured in fifteen articles, including four in the Globe and Mail. We were highlighted as an innovative project in the 2018 United Nations Report on Happiness. Cohousing lite has been debated as a feasible approach for making cohousing more accessible in urban communities at national and international cohousing conferences and has spawned other cohousing lite communities including one in New Zealand.

The members of Our Urban Village — the cohousers themselves — decided by consensus in summer 2020 to adopt the name “Tomo House” or “Tomo House on Main”. It’s safe to say there’s vibrant appreciation among the community for the value that Tomo has brought to making a dream into a reality.

Can you imagine a partnership so strong that you’d like to name your home after them? Yeah, we’re that enthusiastic.