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Intentional Community: A way of life

Frequently Asked Questions

This is cohousing; how does it differ from a co-op?

Pacific Gardens is a strata (similar to a condominium).  The apartments in our complex are privately owned. Since the owners have title to their strata lots, they are eligible for mortgages.

There are two features that define a cohousing community:  (1) a common house, in which many community activities take place and (2) a decision making structure that is based on consensus.

The “co” in cohousing stands for “collaborative.”  It describes an interdependent relationship in which each household is autonomous, but residents choose to participate in many joint activities.

In contrast, living in a housing cooperative is more like renting.  The building is owned by the cooperative. Members own shares, which allow them to occupy their units. Banks typically do not give mortgages for cooperatives, since shareholders do not own their units, and there are many restrictions to selling units.

A few of our residents have lived in both co-op housing and cohousing.  They report that, in practical terms, there are many similarities to daily life in the two models.

The difference lies in the inspiration for the creation of the community.

A cohousing development is designed to foster relationships amongst its residents. It is not intended to be affordable housing, though volunteer work and tool libraries do result in some cost savings.

Co-op housing, on the other hand, is a type of ownership and tenancy often linked to government sponsored affordability programs.  Co-op housing frequently results in close connections among residents too. Those bonds, however, tend to be a byproduct of the model rather than the impetus for building the project in the first place.

This document provides more information on the differences among cohousing, cooperatives and conventional stratas/condominiums.

Is this 'Affordable Housing'?

No. Pacific Gardens is a strata/condominium complex. Pacific Gardens homes are bought and sold at market value.

Is this seniors housing/are children allowed?

Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community is a diverse multi-generational community welcoming all age groups and family sizes. We feel that when three or more generations live together in the same complex, it provides an opportunity for the respect and inclusion of our elders, minimizes the alienation of any age group, and strengthens our community. For those of us who live here, the variety of family constellations is one of the delights of Pacific Gardens.

Is this suitable for families?

Face painted Children

Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community was created to be multi-generational and family-friendly. We Pacific Gardeners can attest how enriching it is to have neighbours from babes in arms to folks in their 80s.

Are there opportunities for me to operate a home-based business?

Yes. These days many people work from home, and that includes some of us Pacific Gardeners. Keep in mind, however, that the City of Nanaimo has a number of regulations that govern the type of business you may conduct from home. Our Strata Council has adopted consensual guidelines regarding home-based businesses.

I’d love to be a part of Pacific Gardens Cohousing but don’t know how I can afford it.

If you’re concerned about costs, come in and talk to us. Many of our owners have solved their financing issues and may be able to offer ideas and suggestions that would work for you too. Co-ownership is one approach some owners have used. If you’d like to explore that option, please contact us.

Will my unit have a kitchen?

Yes. All units are self-contained. All have fully functioning kitchens and laundry hookups. We regularly have common meals, and most residents participate. Indeed, for many of us, sharing meals in our dining hall is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the cohousing lifestyle. But participation in common meals is entirely optional.

Can I have pets?

Yes. We have pets amongst the occupants of Pacific Gardens. However, each unit is limited to one dog and one cat and our bylaws include some stipulations about spaying/neutering, vaccinations, etc. In addition, all pets must be leashed while they are on the common property.

Community sounds great, but at times I need my privacy. How does that work?

Many of us who live at Pacific Gardens appreciate community but also value our privacy. After living here for a short time, we sense who is an extrovert and welcomes company at almost any time and who is an introvert and needs personal space. Some of us use our kitchen blinds as a signal. Closed kitchen blinds mean, “Privacy please,” while open blinds mean, “Drop by if you like.”

Will I be able to garden?

Pacific Gardens Community GardensAbsolutely!

The high regard that many of our residents have for gardening is reflected in our very name — Pacific Gardens. We have several plots available for individual residents, as well as a communal one. As our property previously was a heritage apple orchard, we are fortunate to have some established fruit trees. Our compost bins accumulate naturally nutrient-rich soil for our green-thumbers. We grow some of our own food and pick the abundant raspberries and blackberries on our property during the summer.

When was Pacific Gardens completed?

Pacific Gardens Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

September 4, 2009 was a red letter day for us. That was the date on which we received our occupancy permit.

What units are available?

Call us at 250 754-3060 or e-mail us at to find out what units are available. You can also check out our Homes for Sale page.

Is there a selection process?

Homes are purchased and sold by owners in the same way as in any other condominium building.

However, it is our hope that sellers will sell their units to people who have demonstrated a genuine interest in cohousing and a willingness to do the social, emotional and practical work that support the healthy functioning of a cohousing community.

If sellers and landlords wish to use its services, we have a Sales and Rental Support Team that is available to assist them in finding purchasers and tenants who are compatible with cohousing.

It is our expectation that prospective purchasers and tenants will participate in:

  • a tour of the property
  • a social event (e.g., Thursday potluck supper, Tuesday afternoon tea or Saturday morning coffee circle)

If they still are interested, we would encourage them to participate in:

  • a community meeting (first Monday of the month, unless that’s a public holiday, in which case it’s the second Monday)
  • a cohousing conversation (a gathering with half a dozen residents of different ages and life stages to explore each other’s expectations and experiences of living in cohousing)

We would also encourage potential community members to read the minutes of our strata and community meetings for the last two years, our bylaws, rules and guidelines, and our financial reports. When prospective buyers have reached that level of interest, we provide them with a link to a Google Drive where they can view that material.

Living in a cohousing community requires a shift towards a cooperative culture and away from the competitive culture that most of us have been immersed in since kindergarten. It is a significant change of orientation, and it requires real effort.

Cohousing has many rewards, and we are eager to share the joys of this lifestyle. At the same time, it is fair to you and to us to make you aware of the personal commitment that’s involved.

How can I learn more about cohousing?
  • The Cohousing Handbook by Chris & Kelly Scotthanson
  • Creating a Life Together by Diana Leafe Christian
  • Finding Community by Diana Leafe Christian
  • On Conflict and Consensus by C.T. Butler
  • Introduction to Consensus by Bea Briggs
  • Browse articles on and