Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Sam came into town last weekend to visit his new niece and to show me Windsong.

Last spring he bought a small one bedroom plus den unit in Windsong Cohousing out in Langley, BC. It is the oldest cohousing place in BC, 14 years old this year. As luck would have it, the unit next door to Sam's also came up for sale shortly after Sam bought his unit, and he wanted me to buy it. Everything Sam told me and everything I already had heard about Windsong made me very interested in the idea and I did put a bid in on the unit, but it was beyond my price range and another bidder got it. I was kind of disappointed at the time, and it made looking for a place in Nova Scotia that much harder, emotionally speaking.

Sam won't be moving into Windsong for awhile so in the meantime he has rented his unit out. But he is already a part of that community even though he does not live there himself. The afternoon that he took me on a tour of Windsong almost everyone we met there greeted Sam by name and he stopped to chat with them. There were two women having tea on the lawn behind Windsong and it turned out one of them was a founding member of Windsong and used to own Sam's place.

Windsong sits on 5 acres smack in the middle of developed suburb, surrounded by condominium complexes on a busy road. The buildings occupy one acre and there is a salmon stream surrounded by wetland taking up about half of the property. The rest is visitor parking, residents' garden plots, lawn and play space.

The complex is laid out as two wings, north and south, with a central building of community rooms. Each wing is two large buildings with a wide glass-covered "atrium" between them. Units range from one bedroom to four bedrooms, all with main entrances onto the atrium. Many units have furniture or decorative objects in the atrium, kind of like tiny front yards. They are all brightly painted in different colours.

The central building has a large dining-lounge-kitchen room, another large lobby-lounge area, and several smaller rooms including meeting space, a dance studio and an art studio, and a guest room for visitors. Another large room is a children's play area with a separate exit to an outdoor play area.

Being a sort of intentional community, there are the obligatory committee meeting notices, newsletters and event announcements posted in the lobby and lounge area. Children's toys and bikes are scattered everywhere. This cohousing community is one of the more varied in BC, comprising children and adults of all ages.

Sam had let his tenants know that we were coming; they told him that they would be away but would leave the door unlocked so we could walk through and view the interior of Sam's unit. Sam knocked on the door and sure enough there was no answer so we just walked in. It was rather dark inside, the window space is not really sufficient for decent lighting. But otherwise the unit is nicely laid out and has a small overgrown and private patio. The original owner of this unit had planted the patio as an edible landscape, but I don't think it was maintained after she moved out. No doubt many of the plants growing there are edible, but not very recognizable.

This would be a nice community to be part of I think, especially for someone my age. And it would have been nice to live next door to Sam and his dogs. His idea had been that I would take one of the dogs and he the other; that way they could stay together but apart. As it is, it is doubtful he will be able to keep the two dogs when he moves to Windsong, it will just be too crowded and he will have to find a job there that will probably necessitate leaving the dogs alone and cooped up every day.

I have considered taking the dogs to Nova Scotia, but if I do then that will be the end of my travelling days, there is just no way I could travel with two giant malemutes. Unless I got myself a giant RV, which I really don't want to do. We are extremely reluctant to separate these dogs, they have been together all their lives. But finding a home for them together is a big problem. There's still some time to find a solution, but right now I don't see a good one.

There are quite a few cohousing places in BC but they are mostly fairly expensive and/or not close to urban centres. I like the look and feel of Windsong, but I think I would go a little crazy living in the middle of Langley suburbia. It'd be like living in a small island community in a sea of anonymity. The price Sam paid for his unit was unusually inexpensive for cohousing in BC.

There are a few cohousing places outside of BC, but none in the Maritimes that I know of.


Rain Trueax said...

Is co-housing like co-ops? Do they own only their own unit or also common grounds? I like the creative spaces. The concept sounds interesting especially as a person aged. Assisted living is somewhat like that but only for elders and with paying quite a bit for the assisted part.

Miriam said...

I enjoyed your article Annie. I live at WindSong and met Sam at Daniel's wedding. WindSong is an incredible place to live for youngsters and the young at heart. I'm looking forward to meeting you some time.

Wisewebwoman said...

I also love the name, appeals to my inner hippie-dippy. so sad about the dogs, Annie but lovely they will stay together.
A great idea this co-housing, is it like condo living? shared upkeep, etc. The upkeep would be horrendous I would think.
My friends in BC just bought a float-home, have you looked at that possibility?
Of course I'm in favour of the maritimes....

Barbara Anne said...

What an interesting place and concept. Thanks for the intro and pictures!

I join in the hope that the dogs can stay together.


One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I like this .... wish there was something like this in my area.
I am fine for a couple of years - who knows - maybe I am fine for the rest of my days. Would be nice to have some people involvement.