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