The previous email was my attempt to give a somewhat unbiased report on our discussion. Here are my personal, distinctly biased thoughts on the meeting and our cohousing endeavour:
Cohousing is about more than just living near each other. It’s about a planned, intentional community, about having common dinners, about building an environment, together, that gives us what we want and that encourages interaction while still allowing privacy. Otherwise we could just all book into the same retirement village or buy adjacent homes in a new development. As such, the common house is the key, essential ingredient, and needs to be a major component of our plan.
One major objection to a rural location seemed to be not having things within walking distance. Being able to walk to shops, restaurants, events, etc. gives people a sense of freedom and independence. If walking becomes an age-challenge, one suggestion was that we would use scooters instead. But neither walking nor a scooter sound like great solutions when it’s rainy, windy, icy, snowy, humid, or really hot or cold out.
A scooter won’t work well for carrying home large quantities of groceries or wine, and people may not be comfortable using them after dark. According to the survey, the major things people want to have access to include stores, medical facilities and restaurants. A car (or public transit) are far more practical ways to access those things (it’s especially unlikely that we will be within scooter distance of all of our medical specialists and hospitals).
Many of us will keep our drivers licenses long after we have difficulty walking. However, some people might not feel comfortable driving, or be able to. So the issue becomes whether we can set up a good system of ride-sharing, or can use self-driving cars, staff that drives us, or taxi/Uber services. Being out in the country will increase the distance required to access many places, but it also means driving quieter, non-congested roads with little traffic, which may make driving more of an option for some of us as we age.
The biggest cost is the extra time, and the opportunity cost – will we go out to restaurants or concerts if it takes a long time? But then again, the point of the cohousing community is to provide social opportunities at home – will we want to go out to restaurants as often when we have a group dinner option here at home? Will we find that we frequently prefer to socialize in the games room or entertainment room?
Having things close at hand absolutely becomes more important as we age. That could include those stores, clinics and events, but it also includes all the features that we would like to have within our cohousing community. I’m not sure how we get it all, particularly within our budgets. We all need to think about what we really are looking for.
My vision of what I want includes a large, bright, open-concept common house with a view of nature and sunsets. I want a place where dogs can run around free, and we can develop extensive gardens. I don’t want to feel hemmed in. That said, I’m still not entirely sure if the farm (or some other rural property) is as desirable as a small town, or a large property just outside of an urban area, with easier access to amenities.
I did a search on realtor.ca, which I’ve summarized here: ; the actual listings are all posted in the cohousing folder in Google Drive under “property listings”: https://goo.gl/ISqyXX. With the exception of a few stately old homes on modestly large lots (at a million dollars or more), I didn’t find any existing houses within urban centres that seemed to suit our needs.
Vacant lots were either too small or were outside of the centre of town. The more reasonably priced homes were all a 3-15 minute drive outside of downtown. The 3+ acre vacant lots were also all 5-10 minutes from downtown. Is that actually any real advantage over the farm? I don’t know…
The most interesting property I found, by far, was 2564 Sherbrooke Street W Peterborough, $900,000 for a 6 bed 4 bath home, 5800 sqft, with a separate in-law suite, large garage, on a huge lot of 40 acres, 15 minute drive to downtown Peterborough, 7 minutes to the big box retail stores. Here’s the listing
We drove out there and took a look, and the property looks like it would work well for building a cohousing complex – well off the road, very private, with a fair number of trees and a very flat lot. 40 acres would give us a lot of room to build, and a good buffer zone even if the surrounding area is developed at a later date.
It is an easy drive to stores, hospitals, etc. However, it isn’t walking distance to anything. Compared to the farm, it saves us about 25 minutes drive time to Peterborough, and is 40 minutes closer to Toronto. Does a property like this appeal to people, and does this distance advantage make it more appealing than the farm?