Members of the Compass Cohousing group checked out the land they hope to buy last week, where they want to build a 34-37 unit complex. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Cohousing project seeks new members for Langley development

With land located, new future residents are sought

A group of Langley cohousing advocates are getting close to creating the community’s second example of collaborative development and living.

Compass Cohousing has found a $3.6 million piece of Township-owned land at the corner of 66th Avenue and 203rd Street, and plans to develop between 34 to 37 units for a multi-generational community.

“I like to think of it as the re-invention of the village,” said participant Doug Chaffee, one of the core group of eight members that has been pushing the project forward for the past several years.

It’s been a long journey so far.

“We spent about five years trying to find land,” said Chaffee.

Cohousing projects resemble ordinary townhouse and condo developments from the outside, but the future residents don’t just buy a unit. Instead, they’re involved at every stage of the process, from finding the land, to helping design the complex, to working together once the project is built.

Langley already hosts B.C.’s oldest purpose-built cohousing complex, the WindSong community on 88th Avenue in Walnut Grove. If successful, Compass will be the second.

The site they’ve located, and for which they’ve already put down a deposit, is close to transit, shopping, and the Muriel Arnason Library in the Township Civic Facility.

The core members visited the site recently, which is a 1.33 acre location that currently has one house and a garage. They were visited by Charles Durrett, an American architect and one of the founders of the cohousing movement in North America.

“How do you make an environment where people feel like it’s pro-social?” Durrett said as he checked out the site with a group that ranged from seniors to young children.

He noted this project has already passed some of the most significant hurdles to creating a cohousing complex, just by finding land.

Now Compass is hoping to bring in more members who will eventually live in the complex.

“We hope to get a critical mass of 20 equity members, or close to that, by the time we get into the design,” said Chaffee.

Right now, people can sign up to become associate members by paying $250 for a trial period. At the end of four months, they can opt out or they can put down a deposit of $10,000 to become equity members. That deposit will go towards the eventual price of their unit at the Compass complex.

It will not be a quick road to moving in. The design will be done by the group, and is likely to include more options for a shared community space than most condos or townhouse complexes have.

The project is not meant as affordable housing, but organizers have been discussing the idea of using some units for social purposes, said Chaffee.

There are discussions about Inclusion Langley – formerly the Langley Association for Community Living – possibly buying one of the units for their clients, said Chaffee.

They’ve also looked into the idea of having one unit owned by the provincial government for refugee family housing.

“What we’d like to do is take in a refugee family for three years, get them settled,” said Chaffee. “One of the things refugees often lack is a community.”

Community is the ideal of cohousing. Complexes like WindSong often organize regular pot luck community meals and share work that in other stratas would be contracted out, such as groundskeeping.

Compass is to hold a public presentation on Dec. 8 at West Langley Hall at 9400 208 Street in Walnut Grove, from 2 to 4 p.m. Durrett will be speaking at the meeting.

Tickets for the event are $5 and can be found on eventbrite.com.

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